Herbie Hancock- “Headhunters”
2. Watermelon Man
4. Vein Melter
Herbie Hancock – Synthesizers
Bennie Maupin – Reeds
Paul Jackson – Electric Bass
Harvey Mason – Drums
Bill Summers – Auxiliary Percussion
In Herbie Hancock’s album, “Headhunters”, it truly becomes apparent that he is taking his jazz a new direction: No longer is he the straight ahead jazz pianist that once played with Donald Byrd, Coleman Hawkins, Freddie Hubbard, and Miles Davis, instead he’s a more funk/rock based player.
The album opens with one of his famous originals, “Chameleon,” the best track on the album. The tune starts out with a really funky bass intro, making it impossible not to nod your head or tap your feet to the groove. The song eventually gets to its real melody and then is followed by many different types of synthesizer sounds experimented by Hancock. In the middle of his solo, he starts to insert some pretty crazy sound effects, some of which sound like bats screeching and tornado sirens; I cannot say that I am a big fan of these. Then, halfway through the track, the song feels like it ends, however it starts right back up again into a different arrangement on the same song. This time the funk is a little bit lighter, accented by
orchestral string sounds from the synthesizers. I was, however, slightly disappointed with the tenor sax solo from Bennie Maupin. It didn’t seem to have any feeling or communication in what he was playing, almost like he was playing with a play-along CD. Overall, this track is the best on the album; however, Herbie
could have made the song a little shorter than 16 minutes because it seems to get rather monotonous after a while.
His second track is a funky version of his original “Watermelon Man.” It begins and ends with a pretty avant-garde but funky flute and voice intro. The bass comes in, they jam for a bit, and then the melody is introduced. Like “Chameleon,” this is a very funky and catchy tune, a true masterpiece of Hancock’s. It’s very interesting to know the original version of this tune and then realize the versatility of Herbie, and how, like Miles Davis, he has no problem changing his style with the times.
“Sly,” his third track is filled with energy, funk, and some neat synthesized effects, completely opposite of “Vein Melter,” his last track which is very relaxed and smooth yet still in the vein of funk. Both of these tracks have interesting pieces, but as a whole, I don’t think they are all that exciting.
In this album, I don’t like the lack of classic Herbie. I respect his effort to take his music a new direction, but personally, I liked the straight ahead way he used to play. Also, possibly the biggest argument I have with this album is the length of the tracks and the overall monotony. As mentioned previously, he could’ve expressed what he had to say on “Chameleon” in five minutes, instead he used a lot of dead space and stretched the track out for sixteen. After a while, I found it difficult to continually find something new to keep me listening intently.
Overall, this album isn’t terrible; however, I’ve heard Herbie do better. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for straight ahead jazz; however, I think that someone who is into rock, funk, or jam band music would really like this album.