For jazz legend Herbie Hancock, the 24th studio recorded album entitled Directstep is a mere blip on the timeline, but this three song LP is not only profound in more ways than one, it is a personal favorite. Recorded in 1978, a year which marks huge transitions in the realm of jazz, Directstep is reflective of the time as it shares many different genres, as each song has its own personality.
At this point in Herbie’s career, he had far strayed away from traditional jazz, and in this particular album, one constant is the electricness, as Herbie uses the synthesizer along with the electric piano, clavinet, and even a vocoder, which depending on personal opinion, is a far cry from or either resembles the popularized and oversaturated auto-tune sound we have heard in pop music over the last half decade. Regardless, this is 1978, preceding pop auto-tune by almost 40 years, and on the song I Thought It Was You, Hancock’s vocals are simply beautiful, as the soft vocal melody and the chord progressions and tempo resemble a soulful harmonious house record.
The album opens with Butterfly which has a great slow groove as the instrumentation is excellent throughout. In a hip hop context Butterfly could even be heard as having a double time feel, while Shiftless Shuffle is Herbie playing a traditional blues sound with an electric twist.
This album is a great listen, and although it is not one of Herbie’s more marquee albums, it is definitely one that exemplifies him as one of the greatest trailblazers that jazz has ever heard.
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Herbie Hancock – Electric Piano, Clavinet, Synthesizer, Vocals, Vocoder
Paul Jackson – Bass
Bennie Maupin – Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Lyricon
Bill Summers – Percussion
Webster Lewis – Organ, Synthesizer, Electric Piano (Rhodes), Backing Vocals
Ray Obiedo – Guitar
Alphonse Mouzon – Drums