Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 14: Herbie Hancock, "Head Hunters"

Artist: Herbie Hancock
Album: Head Hunters
Year: 1973
Label: Columbia/Legacy

When it comes to fusing together funky grooves, soulful melodies, and what can only be called early hip hop rhythms with a jazz base, there is no finer example than Herbie Hancocks' legendary Head Hunters. Hancock, who honed his chops as a member of Miles Davis' legendary quartets, had already released nearly a dozen solo efforts in the decade previous. However, when the world was given Head Hunters, the landscape of jazz was forever changed.

Musicians from Frank Zappa to Nas to Massive Attack have all sampled or quoted (musically) different parts of this album. Head Hunters also brought mass appeal to listeners who may not have been "jazz listeners" previously, which enabled Head Hunters to topple Davis' Kind Of Blue as the best selling jazz record in history (a record held until Kind Of Blue took the title back in the late 90's).

Combining elements of a myriad of musical forms and birthing a new genre is no simple task and that makes Head Hunters truly a one of a kind album. The funk grooves are equal to those of Sly Stone and the jazz improvisation is on par with anyone you can imagine. The musicians know just where to leave the "open space" and each musical thought gets completely and flawlessly explored.

Hancock, unlike most jazz combo leaders, is able to step back and be part of the band as opposed to forcing himself in front of the music and letting the band fall by the wayside. Due to this, the brilliance of each musician gets its own time in the spotlight and the overall album benefits from this act of humility. Whether it is the acidy sax leads on "Watermelon Man," the dawdling basswork on "Vein Matter," or Hancock's own consummate keyboard work on "Sly," Head Hunters radiates paramount musicianship from beginning to end.

Most musicians would have been content to be known as a cornerstone of Miles Davis' greatest combos. Herbie Hancock had greater dreams and has released dozens of amazing albums throughout the past 5 decades. With Head Hunters, he defined a new style of jazz and became an influence for generations of musicians. Flawless from end to end, the album is an unquestionable essential for every music collection.

Oh, and if all of that is not enough, the album cover is wicked awesome!!!

Standout tracks: With only four tracks on the record, they are all standouts!

No comments: