Hear O Israel
CATALOGUE NUMBER JBH025 CD / LP
THE SECRET HERBIE HANCOCK ALBUM.
This album was lent to me back in about 1999 by one of the great London jazz collectors, John Cooper. At the time I was going through a jazz-meets-religion phase and it seemed an appropriate listen. The LP reared its unusual head a few years later as another strange Trunk project loomed. This time, when I borrowed the record it struck me that it was far more special than I had first realised. With its Hebrew song and prayer mixed in with striking New York modern jazz I was totally captivated from the instant it started. And I'm not Jewish either. It didn't sound like anything else, and the whole history of it was bizarre. It was written by a 17 year old, and then performed by the top New York jazz musicians of the day. I decided to find out a little more and eventually (after the usual detective work) ended up speaking to a lovely woman called Dorothy in New York. I explained to her what I did here in London, and that I'd like to issue the recording. She said "You mean the jazz?". I said "Yes, I mean the jazz", to which she suggested I go right on ahead and do it.
Well if only life and music was that simple. Over the next few months we went on to sort out the full musical rights and the result is the first ever major release of this glorious recording.
The original LP was issued privately and in very, very limited numbers, it had no catalogue number, sparse distribution (possibly only at concerts) and maybe sold only a few hundred copies back in 1968 - if that. If anyone has further information please get in touch as we'd all like to know. Especially me. I'm a bit sad like that.
As for the cover art, I made a decision not to use the original sleeve image, simply because it is so very terrible. It looks like a second generation blurred photo of a Tora scroll with a trumpet and another couple of brass instruments lying on the floor. And don't get me started on the typography. So, I started looking for alternate images. I looked far and wide, at antique fayres, Judaica auctions, photo libraries and anywhere else I could think of and failed miserably to get anywhere even after months. I looked for good shots of Synagogues, for interesting Rabbi photos or paintings, always seeking anything that would give the sleeve a religious feel but still maintain a jazz edge. In the end I settled for a slightly abstracted Hanukkah Lamp, which although has nothing to do with Friday night prayers, has an instant and recognisable connection with the Jewish faith.
One final note, I have copied the original sleeve notes out for this release. This is far easier than trying to write something else, and then at least it's all correct. So when you get it, you can read the whole original story.
The album was originally commissioned by Rabbi David Davis, recorded and then pressed in 1968, and includes the following musicians:
Herbie Hancock - piano
Jerome Richardson - flute, tenor and alto sax
Grady Tate - drums
Thad Jones - trumpet and flugelhorn
Ron Carter - bass
Jonathan Klein - composer, French horn and baritone
Rabbi David Davis - reader
Antonia Lavannne - soprano
Phyllis Bryn-Julson - contralto