Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock was released on October 13th, 1973 by Columbia Records. Included in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the album is a staple of every fusion lover’s collection. The four-song album is a tasteful ode to jazz fusion, each song with its own distinct personality and sound.
The album name comes from the title of the group of musicians that Hancock assembled for the album. The Headhunters included Herbie on the keys, Bennie Maupin on woodwinds, Paul Jackson on bass, Bill Summers on auxilliary percussion, and Harvey Mason on drums. Building on his reputation as a brilliant jazz musician, it was at this point that Hancock decided to head in a “lighter” musical direction (as Hancock phrased it himself, on the sleeve of the 1977 CD reissue), integrating funkier aspects to his playing.
From this newer approach stemmed two songs which are now very well known and loved. The first is a remade version of Hancock’s already well-known song “Watermelon Man”, made funkier. The song drew a lot of attention from the public, appealing via its lighthearted groove, tasteful licks, and overall musicality. The definite main feature of the album is the well-known song “Chameleon.” This tune is 15 minutes of pure funky brilliance. The tune still resonates with many, and is known to anyone well-versed in that era of music. “Chameleon” has been sampled by many hip-hop artists including 2pac, Nas, and others, showing its reach into more current circles of music.
What is truly special about this album is its success in converging varying genres of music. It gave jazz lovers music to enjoy in a funky, bluesy context, and it gave blues and funk lovers music enjoyable in a jazzy context. Combining these three genres in a flawless and brilliant manner, Herbie created an extremely influential album, one that truly defined him as a pioneer of both funk and jazz.
Stay tuned for next week’s album!