Saturday, October 13, 1973

Herbie Hancock Head Hunters released

Head Hunters

Herbie Hancock

Released: October 13, 1973

Charted: January 12, 1974

Peak: 13 US, 2 RB

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Genre: acid jazz


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Chameleon (2/23/74, 18 RB)
  2. Watermelon Man
  3. Sly
  4. Vein Melter

Total Running Time: 41:52

The Players:

  • Herbie Hancock (electric piano, clavinet, synthesizers)
  • Bernie Maupin (saxophone, saxello, bass clarinet, alto flute)
  • Paul Jackson (bass guitar, marimbula)
  • Havey Mason (drums)
  • Bill Summers (percussion)


4.605 out of 5.00 (average of 15 ratings)


“Its genre-bending proved vastly influential on not only jazz, but funk, soul, and hip-hop.” – Stephen Thomas (Erlewine, All Music Guide


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Perhaps the defining moment of the jazz-fusion movement (or perhaps even the spearhead of the Jazz-funk style of the fusion genre), the album made jazz listeners out of rhythm and blues fans, and vice versa.” WK “Hancock had pushed avant-garde boundaries on his own albums and with Miles Davis, but he had never devoted himself to the groove as he did on Head Hunters.

Head Hunters followed a series of experimental albums by Hancock’s sextet: Mwandishi (1970), Crossings (1971), and Sextant (1972), released at a time when Hancock was looking for a new direction in which to take his music.” WK “Hancock assembled a new band, The Headhunters, of whom only Bennie Maupin had been a sextet member. Hancock handled all synthesizer parts himself (having previously shared these duties with Patrick Gleeson),” WK a move which brought “the instrument to the forefront of jazz.” WK Chameleon boasts “an instantly recognisable intro, the very funky bassline being played on an ARP Odyssey synth. Vein Melter is a slow-burner, predominantly featuring Hancock and Maupin, with Hancock mostly playing Fender Rhodes electric piano, but occasionally bringing in some heavily effected synth parts.” WK

Hancock also “decided against the use of guitar altogether, favouring instead the clavinet, one of the defining sounds on the album.” WK With its “deeply funky, even gritty, rhythms,” STE a “tight rhythm and blues-oriented rhythm section and…relaxed, funky groove,” WK the album’s “rhythms were firmly planted in funk, soul, and R&B,” STE showing the influences of artists such as “Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, and James Brown.” STE For example, “Sly was dedicated to pioneering funk musician Sly Stone, leader of Sly & the Family Stone.” WK

The new sound “gave the album an appeal to a far wider audience;” WK “at the time of the 1992 CD reissue it was the largest-selling jazz album of all time.” WK However, the album still maintained “all of the sensibilities of jazz, particularly in the way it wound off into long improvisations.” STE “Jazz purists, of course, decried the experiments at the time, but Head Hunters still sounds fresh and vital decades after its initial release, and its genre-bending proved vastly influential on not only jazz, but funk, soul, and hip-hop.” STE

“Of the four tracks on the album Watermelon Man was the only one not written for the album. A hit from Hancock’s hard bop days, originally appearing on his first album Takin’ Off, it was reworked…and has an instantly recognisable intro featuring Bill Summers blowing into a beer bottle, an imitation of the hindewho, an instrument of the Mbuti Pygmies of Northeastern Zaire. The track features heavy use of African percussion.” WK

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First posted 4/13/2011; last updated 3/15/2024.

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