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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, March 25, 1997
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Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 03/25/1997
Keyboardist Herbie Hancock's remarkable career took a surprising turn with this funk album--one of the first jazz albums to be certified gold. Hancock's already-storied career had included an extended tenure with Miles Davis as a member of both the classic quintet of the '60s and the trumpeter's groundbreaking electric dates. As a leader, the pianist had followed a similar course, cutting both outstanding acoustic dates (Maiden Voyage, Empyrean Isles) and experimental electric sessions (Sextant, Crossings).
Head Hunters, however, was something different: a stripped-down date featuring reedman Bennie Maupin as the only horn player, and a funk-oriented rhythm section made up of Paul Jackson, Harvey Mason, and Bill Summers. Hancock traded in his sophisticated piano performances and complex compositions for simple melodies, slow-burn funk grooves, and light electric keyboard splashes. The results, particularly on the tracks "Chameleon" and "Watermelon Man," had a profound impact on other musicians, although critics charged Hancock with playing to the galleries. But the album has stood the test of time--something neither the wealth of Hancock's imitators nor his own subsequent albums in this vein have been able to do. --Fred Goodman
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Herbie Hancock - in a December 1996 essay included in the liner notes to Head Hunters - writes, "I started thinking about Sly Stone and how much I loved his music and how funky 'Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself' is. I was hearing that song over and over again."
From that inspiration from one artist to another came this jazz-funk classic. Clean production, ample room for Bennie Maupin (reeds), Harvey Mason (drums) and Bill Summers (percussion) to stretch their solos, with bassist Paul Jackson pushing the rhythm and Hancock pulling down unique electronic sounds in the Fall 1973 recording sessions that produced this extraordinary album.
Hancock is nothing less than superb on the classic Chameleon and Sly, the band's tribute to Sly Stone. The studio tricks on Chameleon are a special treat. Vein Melter covers a more jazzy terrain, while Watermelon Man produces some hot work from Mason and Summers.
The 1970s brought a revolution of musical vision, with Head Hunters near the top of the pack in busting down the finite walls of sound and delivering infinite possibilities through a new generation of musicians who had jazz in their hearts and funk running through their veins.