All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

536

Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters

By

Sign in to view read count
While Sextant (Columbia, 1973) found keyboardist Herbie Hancock dabbling in the electronic soundscapes of the emerging jazz-fusion movement which gained him notoriety as a fusion impressionist aficionado, it was Head Hunters (Columbia, 1973) that propelled him out of the smoky jazz clubs and into the wide-open spaces of arena-rock stardom. Along for the ride is Hancock's company of players: long-time collaborator and reedman Bernie Maupin, electric bassist Paul Jackson, drummer Harvey Mason and, playing a plethora of secondary percussion, Bill Summers. The album—Hancock's second offering to Columbia—became the largest selling jazz album of all time with more than one million copies sold upon its release in October, 1973.

At nearly sixteen minutes in length, the stunning opener "Chameleon" has Hancock running a funk-infused musical gauntlet with a dizzying display of sonic overtones as Maupin's saxophone follows effortlessly to Hancock's melodious stride. Mason's steady-handed drumming, coupled with Jackson's cool bass line groove, provides an unforgettable, head-bobbing foundation.

"Watermelon Man" is reborn and stripped down to its funky roots from its more traditional predecessor on Hancock's Blue Note debut, Takin' Off (1962). The song takes on a new shape here—having a tropical feel to it as Maupin's alto flute shimmies along with Jackson's bass guitar backdrop. Hancock's contribution drives the melody, but feels subdued as he generously allows his band mates ample breathing room for a little free improvisation. Collectively, Hancock and his troupe take "Watermelon Man" from its conventional acoustic ensemble origins and transform it into the likes of a stellar tribal jam session.

"Sly" is easily the quintessential funk improvisational free-for-all as Hancock, Maupin and Jackson flex their musical chops, playing in a manic yet structured style. When Mason's drums and Summers' congas merge during the fast-paced measures, their frenzied playing creates a ferocious wall of percussion, adding to the electricity of Hancock's composition, and the sound is, in a word, incendiary.

The album's closer, "Vein Melter," is a piece of nocturnal magic and finds Hancock and his company taking it easy. The keyboardist's airy opus is mingled with Maupin's crooning sax and feels reminiscent of Miles Davis' sleepy classic "So What" from Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959). Still, Jackson's brazen riffs contain a funk-fusion swagger that wholly separates "Melter" from its bluesy predecessor while still maintaining its traditional jazz roots. The song finds Mason and Summers at the peak of their musical powers. Their contribution is subtle but captivating, as they form a soft wave of percussion in their amalgamation of drums and tambourine, filling out the bottom of Hancock's piece with peaceful nuances and equally gentle rhythms.

Head Hunters took the necessary risks. It would not only go on to pave the way for electronic music and hip-hop style, but Hancock's eclectic sound would cut across to influence other genres of music as well. Moreover, it ultimately changed the way people heard music by opening the door to new musical soundscapes and possibilities. For that fact alone, Head Hunters remains as one of the most sought after, influential jazz recordings ever created.

Track Listing: Chameleon; Watermelon Man; Sly; Vein Melter.

Personnel: Herbie Hancock: keyboards; Bernie Maupin: reeds; Paul Jackson: electric bass guitar, marimbula; Harvey Mason: drums; Bill Summers: percussion.

Title: Head Hunters | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Columbia Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road CD/LP/Track Review
Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 25, 2018
Read 8 Songs CD/LP/Track Review
8 Songs
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Facing Dragons CD/LP/Track Review
Facing Dragons
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Brothers CD/LP/Track Review
Brothers
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 24, 2018
Read The Fearless Flyers CD/LP/Track Review
The Fearless Flyers
by John Bricker
Published: September 24, 2018
Read "New Chapter" CD/LP/Track Review New Chapter
by Jim Olin
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "We Are All" CD/LP/Track Review We Are All
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 10, 2018
Read "Encontros - Orquestra Atlantica" CD/LP/Track Review Encontros - Orquestra Atlantica
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 14, 2018
Read "The Bowels Of Jupiter" CD/LP/Track Review The Bowels Of Jupiter
by Don Phipps
Published: March 6, 2018
Read "Lean On Me" CD/LP/Track Review Lean On Me
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: August 28, 2018
Read "D'Agala" CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 13, 2018