This 1969 recording is a loose suite of pieces inspired by Martin Luther King and the struggle for black civil rights. Hancock wrote four of them and arranged bassist Buster Williams's "Firewater," expanding his working sextet to a nonet for the date with flute, bass clarinet, and bass trombone. The additional winds add delicacy and texture to an already powerful band, and the expanded palette allows Hancock to show untapped strengths as an orchestrator, enlarging the harmonic inference of strongly felt themes that are by turns majestic, assertive, and pensive.
A fine balance is maintained between compositional form and subtle voicings on one hand, and the turbulent, explosive energies in the music and the band, from the churning rhythms of Williams and drummer Albert Heath to the coiling snap of Joe Henderson's tenor. Maintaining that balance with Hancock is underrated trumpeter Johnny Coles, who's superb in leads as well as solos, bringing all the experience he gained with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus to bear on Hancock's work. The final recording of Hancock's 1960s Blue Note tenure, this is ambitious and accomplished work. The CD reissue adds two alternate takes to the original LP. The shorter version of "The Prisoner" is notable for Henderson's intense, fluid solo. --Stuart Broomer
Personnel: Johnny Coles - fluegelhorn; Joe Henderson - tenor sax & alto flute; Garnett Brown - trombone; Herbie Hancock - piano & electric piano; Buster Williams - bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath - drums; Hubert Laws - flute*; Jerome Richardson - bass clarinet* (& flute**); Romeo Penque - bass clarinet**; Tony STudd - bass trombone*; Jack Jeffers - bass trombone**
1. I Have A Dream* (Herbie Hancock) 10:55
2. The Prisoner (Herbie Hancock) 7:55
3. Firewater (Charles Wiliams) 7:30
4. He Who Lives In Fear (Herbie Hancock) 6:50
5. Promise of the Sun** (Herbie Hancock) 7:50