Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mixed Formats: Rockit


This week’s theme is an experiment. We will be presenting songs in a variety of formats, and I mean that both in terms of the music itself and the way we present it. Some of us still have file hosting and will be sharing mp3s. But others, myself obviously included, will share videos. There may also be some streaming audio. The goal is to present as much music as possible for you, our readers. This mix of audio and visual formats may be how we proceed for a while at least, so I hope you will take the time and use the comments to let us know what you think. Incidentally, the picture on the sidebar this week is by artist Miriam Pinkerton. You can get a better look at it, as well as seeing more a possibly purchasing some of her work here.

Rockit was an MTV sensation in 1983. Probably very few viewers, however, had heard of Herbie Hancock before. Hancock had long before established himself as a jazz master. He was with Miles Davis when Davis invented jazz fusion, and Hancock greatly advanced fusion with his Headhunters band. But Rockit is not jazz, is it? The song combines a funky groove with a lead line on synthesizer with the turntablism of Grandmaster DST. Hancock was finding in the music that would later be called hip-hop the same improvisational spirit he knew so well in jazz, but the song is surely not jazz itself.

Or is it? Here’s Hancock and his band performing the song again, this time live in Los Angeles in 2008:

Now, some connections snap into place. Now, on finding this video, I understand at last how Herbie Hancock could have been responsible for Rockit in the first place. This version of the song makes clear how it relates to Hancock‘s jazz fusion work. It is unquestionably the same song, but this treatment brings it home for me. The band stretches out, and this version is clearly jazz.

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