Herbie's career spans over four decades. Two of them are captured in this box.
Disc 1 contains 9 excellent acoustic jazz tracks from the late 1970s and early 1980s, featuring VSOP, Herbie's quartet with Wynton Marsalis (one track only), a solo piano track, and a nice track with Bobby McFerrin + jazz trio. One of the VSOP cuts is a live performance of Maiden Voyage, which is probably the best version I've ever heard - high energy, superb solos, great arrangement. Several of these tracks are previously unreleased (including Maiden Voyage) or available only on pricey imports.
Disc 2 also focuses on acoustic jazz, featuring tracks by VSOP, the Chick Corea/Herbie Hancock duets, and a jazz trio with Tony Williams and Ron Carter, all recorded in the late 70s or early 80s. Again, several of these tracks are previously unissued or on hard-to-find imports.
Disc 3 contains 9 electric funk tracks, mainly from the Headhunters era (Thrust, Sextant, Headhunters, Secrets). One of these tracks, Actual Proof, is from an excellent live double-cd import set called Flood, which you should grab if you can find a copy. Disc 3 also includes two tracks from solo albums, the 1978 release "Sunlight" and the 1980 disc "Mr. Hands", both of which should be in your collection if you're into Herbie's 1970s/80s electric jazz period.
Disc 4 contains a few more Headhunters-era tracks (including the hit Chameleon), plus some newer stuff (tracks from Monster, Future Shock, Magic Windows, Sound System, and Perfect Machine). Of course, the mega-hit Rockit is included.
Suspiciously absent from the Box is anything from 1977's "Feets Don't Fail Me Now," a disco album with Herbie singing corny pop tunes through a vocoder, a device that combines the shape of his voice with the tone of a synthesizer. (This Box does include one track - "Come Running To Me" - that features Herbie singing through a vocoder; it's a beautiful piece of music, though people disagree about his vocals.)
Some will disagree, but I find the post Mr Hands stuff (only a few tracks in this otherwise great set) disappointing. Herbie just couldn't accept that he couldn't make great pop music the way he made great jazz music, and he kept on trying and trying with pop. By 1990 or so, I think he realized that he was doomed to be forever remembered merely as one of the best and most innovative jazz and funk pianists, composers, arrangers and band-leaders of all time, as he seems to have given up the quest for pop stardom. (However, he still flirts with pop music on occasion - check out his 1996 CD "The New Standard", which contains nice jazz versions of pop tunes by Sade, Peter Gabriel, the Beatles, and Nirvana!!!)
That said, there is more than enough in this box to make it a worthwhile purchase and valuable addition to your collection. The set contains quite a few great tracks that are otherwise unavailable or hard to find. I'm pretty familiar with Herbie's entire career, and I think his acoustic jazz playing in the years covered by this set are his very best. The pre-1981 electric jazz-funk stuff is top notch. Despite my comments about the post-1981 electric stuff above, the tunes here are the best from that period, and worth having.
The booklet contains a long interview with Herbie, it's mostly just Herbie talking about the various tunes in the box, and contains some interesting tidbits. It's worth reading. It also has pretty complete information about each track.
Herbie did a lot of great things before any of the recordings in this box. Most notably, he played with one of Miles Davis' most famous bands, the quintet of the mid 1960s, and these recordings are captured in the excellent 4-CD set "Miles Davis Quintet: 1965-1968." Herbie also won well-deserved accolades for his solo recordings, many of which can be found in the 6-CD set "The Complete Blue Note '60s Sessions".
When browsing over the various user reviews here, you will surely notice that many of them comment on the packaging. You might be shocked by this. Jazz fans, after all, normally care only about the quality of the music.
Let me tell you, the packaging SUCKS. It LOOKS cool - it looks like 4 blank CDs floating in a crystal clear acrylic box. You almost want to display it in your curio or on your coffee table. But opening and closing the box is awkward. Putting the CDs back in the box and closing it is VERY difficult. The guides that hold the CDs in place are very flimsy plastic, and prone to going out of shape. Plus, the box takes up the shelf space of 12 CDs. If you buy this box, invest an extra few bucks in some jewel cases to store the CDs in, then toss the original packaging. It is far more trouble than its worth.