Offering a multiple focus
The challenge in writing “You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band” has been answering a simple question: “what’s it about”? In fact, there is no single focus. Rather, the focus is multiple. On the surface level, its a historical narrative about musicians, yet also a narrative about the development of a particular body of music. On a deeper level, its an attempt to define the Mwandishi band, an ensemble that brought together a constellation of features. None of them alone explain the nature of Hancock’s project. Among these are collective improvisation and the careful listening that requires; open musical forms; the primacy of timbre (tone color) and rhythm over and above melody and harmony; black cultural identification and representation; and the integration of acoustic, electric, and eventually electronic sounds as part of a single sonic tapestry. It was with all of these musical attributes in hand that Herbie Hancock drew upon the Mwandishi band as a dynamic vehicle for his compositions. Thus, the book traces how Herbie developed each of these features and came to integrate them, with a particular group of people, in a particular era. I’m happily taking a short break from work since the manuscript is now under review by my editor. I’ll be back at it soon, but the end is in sight. Happy holidays and Happy New Year!