Fat Albert Rotunda - 1969
Centered around his soundtrack for Bill Cosby's cartoon show, Herbie Hancock dropped his first slice of jazz-funk with Fat Albert Rotunda. Resembling the fusion work Miles Davis was creating around the same time (not surprisingly, since Hancock had just left Davis' group months before recording this album) Fat Albert Rotunda doesn't feature the super-heavy funk that would become his trademark on album's like Headhunters and Thrust, but carries more of a Sly Stone inspired, late-60s R&B bend. The songs and the grooves are solid throughout, and Hancock's Fender Rhodes work is incredibly focused and unadorned with the mountains of effects he would apply to great use throughout the rest of his career.
Mwandishi - 1971
Recorded in one New Year's Eve session in 1970, Mwandishi is the point at which Herbie Hancock's music really took off into outer space. Layered with reverb, stereo tremelo (get out yer headphones for this one) and Echoplex, Hancock's keyboard work is simply otherworldly. The album carries over much of the funk that dominated Fat Albert Rotunda, but the songs (there are only three of them here) are stretched to over 10, 13 and 20 minutes through the sonic experimentation of this great electric sextet. The similarities to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew LP are made even more apparent through the ominous bass clarinet work of Bennie Maupin, who lended that album much of its dark, haunting appeal and provides much of the same here.