REVIEW: Herbie Hancock – Quartet (1982)

Not really a part of the Aaron Challenge, but he did turn me onto this album.

HERBIE HANCOCK – Quartet (1982 Columbia Records)

I find it really hard to:

1) review albums outside my comfort zone, and

2) verbalize thoughts about instrumental music.

I will say this.  One glance at the back cover photos tells me all I need to know about Quartet.  The back cover of this CD screamed to me, “Open me now, because I will thoroughly blow your mind.”  Which is exactly what happened.  The Quartet are Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), and Tony Williams (drums).


I fell in love with “Well You Needn’t” at exactly the 5:12 mark.  It’s an incredible performance to start with, bass and drums dueling with trumpet and piano, but in harmony.  At 5:12 though, it’s just momentarily otherworldly.  It’s synchronicity, and Carl Jung would have pooped his pantaloons if he’d lived long enough to hear it.

“‘Round Midnight” is a Thelonious Monk standard, as is “Well You Needn’t”.  It’s a nice laid back smoky barroom jazz, piano occasionally stealing the spotlight from the muted trumpet.  This song has me seeing black & white, like an old movie.  It picks up halfway through, with trumpet un-muted, and drums throwing cool beats out left right and center.

Ron Carter plays some wicked bass on “Clear Ways”.  “A Quick Sketch” is anything but quick, clocking in over 16 minutes long.  It sets a scene, again like a movie.  There’s some intrigue going on.  It’s lyrical, the instruments are telling a story.  “The Eye of the Hurricane” is frantic.  Its swift pace seems to inspire flurries of instrumental genius.

“Parade”, then, is the opposite; it’s quiet and deliberate.  Herbie’s piano is sublime.  It picks up a bit after a couple minutes, and it does contain some pretty manic solos.  This leads into “The Sorcerer”, a 7 minute workout with some blistering Wynton Marsalis trumpet work.

“Pee Wee” is another smokey barroom number, piano fluttering while the trumpet takes center stage.  Then it’s the piano’s turn, and it’s another lyrical moment. The final song is the ballad “I Fall In Love Too Easily”.  It’s now closing time at that smokey bar.  A few patrons remain but tables are being wiped down and chairs put away.  Last call.

At almost 70 minutes, Quartet was a double album.  Now on CD it’s a single disc, and if you can find the time to play the whole thing in one sitting I would strongly recommend that experience.

5/5 stars


  1. That’s frantic at 5:12! I struggle to give instrumentals my undivided attention – without the lyrics, the music often ends up drifting into the background for me. So I definitely enjoy those 5:12 moments when the song commands your attention!


  2. I don’t own this album…my Herbie Hancock collection consists of The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions 6-CD box set and Headhunters, all of which are astoundingly awesome…but just seeing the musicians on this album convinces me that it’s worth hearing. Tony Williams has been a hero of mine for over 30 years and Ron Carter is a bass playing genius.

    FYI, you did a great job of describing instrumental music. Keep ’em coming.


    1. Thanks man. I’m going to try reviewing some of my very pretty film soundtracks in the future, a daunting task.

      The more I write I realize this blog is becoming a showcase for me to show off some of the items I am most proud of, and I’m enjoying that very much.


  3. You should really check out his 60s and 70s stuff: Empyrean Isles (1964) and Head Hunters (1973) won’t do you any wrong.


        1. This is great! I first became familiar with John Zorn via Mr. Bungle — he produced their first album. This is very Mr. Bungle…or Mr. Bungle is very John Zorn.


Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s