I went to Crossings all Disney-eyed and ready to be mind-blown and sock-rocked; Robert Springett’s cover art – the first for Herbie Hancock – is just that good. And considering that I fell in love with Head Hunters and was working through Herbie Hancock’s discography reverse-chronologically, and had fallen in love withSextant right after, I was ready to fall in love all over again. Unfortunately, I should have known from the get-go, a 2-minute drum solo that just announces the album’s arrival rather than predicts it, that I was going to be let down. I shelved it, kept going through time and came back to this one for re-evaluation and here’s my thesis: not only is this the worst album in Herbie Hancock’s jazz fusion trilogy, this is probably the worst album to exist in Herbie Hancock’s celebrated golden period from 1962 to 1974, and since “worst” is a relative quality, I’ll make myself plainer: this shit fucking sucks.
Why? Broadly speaking, Crossings is emblematic of jazz fusion’s worst tendencies; the less song and songwriting the music has, the more difficult it is to enjoy and thus, “you just don’t get it, mannnnn” the stoner says as a kush cloud parts his lips. But I do, I do. What we have here is a bunch of mini grooves that aren’t nearly as melodically rewarding as Herbie Hancock’s post-bop years (see: 1962’s “Watermelon Man”) or as rhythmically rewarding as Herbie Hancock’s jazz fusion years (see: 1973’s “Watermelon Man”) because they never develop (or barely develop) after being established. After all, it’s hard to when you’re only given a minute to materialize. And worse, these mini grooves aren’t connected in any sort of cohesive way: every time one ends, you’re listening to a couple of minutes of useless noodling before being thrown into the next. Imagine the busiest street of your city on a Saturday morning and that there’s a busker at every corner; Crossings is like walking down that street and catching just a few snatches of each through your headphones that are playing something else.
I was originally going to let Herbie Hancock off the hook because Bennie Maupin (saxophone) authors half the album in “Quasar” and the aptly titled “Water Torture.” But the fact remains: Herbie Hancock is to blame. For one thing, why on Earth is Bennie Maupin writing songs on a Herbie Hancock album to begin with? Also, why did Herbie Hancock think that the ARP synth was a good idea at all? After the album’s completion, he had Dr. Patrick Gleeson record a few notes over top and Buster Williams (bass) was right when he said “It sounds like a big vacuum cleaner.” Gleeson’s additions not only wrestle Claudette’s confession in The Room that she definitely has breast cancer as the dictionary definition of unnecessary, they actually detract from the whole listening experience. Go ahead and skip to the 11:11 mark of “Sleeping Giant.” Good groove, right? Well again, that’s all it is; the three members of the sextet not named Herbie, Billy or Buster just sit idly by waiting for it to end instead of getting in on the action. But then Gleeson comes in at the 12:33 mark and just goes “MUOOOOOOOOH!!!!” and the groove ends.
Bitches Brew isn’t even my friend, but I feel like listening to this album has brought us closer together, sort of like how after an alien invasion, humanity puts aside their differences to band together against the greater foe.