Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band was responsible for creating some of the most deeply explorative and emotionally charged music of the early 1970's electric jazz fusion explosion, and probably ever. The original band on the self-titled debut, recorded in October through December of 1969, consisted of Herbie Hancock (Mwandishi) on rhodes, Bennie Maupin (Mwile) on bass clarinet, flute, and piccolo, Eddie Henderson (Mganga) on trumpet, Julian Priester (Pepo Mtoto) on trombone, Buster Williams (Mchezaji) on bass, and Billy Hart (Jabali) on drums, along with an assortment of supporting musicians, including the illustrious saxophonist Joe Henderson. The music for the most part featured spacey, abstract improvisations from the rhodes and horns over earthy, rhythmic ostinatos from the bass and drums. Crossings added Dr. Patrick Gleeson on synths, launching the band into exotic new galaxies of sound that would be explored further on Sextant. Despite the incredible inventiveness of the music, none of these albums were commercially successful, and the band officially broke up before the release of Herbie's crossover megahit Head Hunters. At least, that's how I thought the story went, until I discovered just days ago that the Mwandishi band recorded two additional little known albums, released under Eddie Henderson's name. The lineup on these albums is essentially unchanged, with the exception that Julian Priester is replaced by the great drummer Lenny White on Realization, and by Weather Report's drummer Eric Gravatt and the Head Hunters conga player Bill Summers on Inside Out.
The band really hit their stride with Crossings and kept it up to Realization, though the debut and Inside Out are also fascinating to hear and light years beyond what most fusion bands were doing following the release of the genre's catalyst, Bitches Brew. Listen to all five of these in a row, and you can consider yourself a black belt in interdimensional time travelin' jazz funk.