THE HEADHUNTERS

Funk Jazz • United States
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Herbie Hancock originally assembled the band for his 1973 album Head Hunters. The Headhunters' new lineup & instrumentation, retaining only wind player Bennie Maupin, from the previous sextet, reflected his new musical direction. Bassist Paul Jackson was the only other member who maintained a continuous presence in the lineup, in subsequent recordings & concerts. On the originating album, the other band members were Bill Summers (percussion) & Harvey Mason (drums).

They continued to work with Hancock throughout the seventies, although the precise line-up varied from album to album. For the next Headhunters album, 1974's Thrust, Mike Clark took over drumming duties.

Both Mason and Clark contributed drums to the Hancock's 1975's solo album Man-Child, which featured guest appearances from Stevie Wonder on harmonica and Wayne Shorter on soprano sax in its greatly expanded line-up. (The release notes for Man-Child credit 18 musicians, in contrast to the simple quintet of their
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THE HEADHUNTERS Discography

THE HEADHUNTERS albums / top albums

THE HEADHUNTERS Survival of the Fittest album cover 3.57 | 4 ratings
Survival of the Fittest
Funk Jazz 1975
THE HEADHUNTERS Straight From the Gate album cover 2.33 | 3 ratings
Straight From the Gate
Funk Jazz 1977
THE HEADHUNTERS Return of the Headhunters album cover 2.45 | 3 ratings
Return of the Headhunters
Funk Jazz 1998
THE HEADHUNTERS Evolution Revolution album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Evolution Revolution
Funk Jazz 2003
THE HEADHUNTERS Platinum album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Platinum
Funk Jazz 2011

THE HEADHUNTERS EPs & splits

THE HEADHUNTERS live albums

THE HEADHUNTERS On Top: Live in Europe album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
On Top: Live in Europe
Funk Jazz 2008

THE HEADHUNTERS demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

THE HEADHUNTERS re-issues & compilations

THE HEADHUNTERS Survival of the Fittest / Straight from the Gate album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Survival of the Fittest / Straight from the Gate
Funk Jazz 2012

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THE HEADHUNTERS Reviews

THE HEADHUNTERS Return of the Headhunters

Album · 1998 · Funk Jazz
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js
When the Headhunters reformed in 1998 to record a new album, expectations were running high as to what one of the greatest funk fusion bands of all time would create during a time when interest in funk jazz was making a big comeback thanks to increased exposure via the youthful acid jazz scene. I had hopes the Headhunters would either jump on the new 90s electronica influenced jazz scene, or possibly take their past work to a new level, but after a few listens I realized neither had happened and quickly discarded this CD. Fortunately a recent re-visit to “Return of the Headhunters” has revealed a few nice cuts, but its true, this one sounded out of date amongst the acid jazz of its time, and is also no match for the Headhunters more illustrious past.

Part of the problem with this CD is a lack of focus and cohesion. There are a couple of vocal numbers that are not remarkable, a couple cuts that try unsuccessfully for a 70s type avant-garde experimentation and some semi-commercial funk/hip hop jazz numbers that are the best of the lot. On some of these funk jazz numbers the band relaxes and pulls off the hot solos they are known for. Although Herbie Hancock is no longer a regular member of the Headhunters, he makes an appearance on a couple tunes. On the other cuts virtuoso keyboardist Billy Childs does a great job at what almost sounds like a toungue-in-cheek impression of Herbie. Certainly Childs has always been influenced by Hancock, but on this album he seems to go out of his way to channel Herbie’s past work with the Headhunters. I’m sure Childs had fun paying tribute to one of his main influences. Some top cuts on here include “Frankie and Kevin” which recalls the space lounge vibe of the Headhunter’s classic “Butterfly”, and “Kawanzaa” with its irresistible African flavored riffs and high powered piano solo from Childs.

There was probably no way this CD could have met everyone’s expectations when it first came out, fortunately with the passing of time it turns out that about half of this CD is good modern funk jazz played by the guys who helped invent this stuff.

THE HEADHUNTERS Survival of the Fittest

Album · 1975 · Funk Jazz
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js
The Headhunters started out as Herbie Hancock’s back-up group for such groundbreaking funk jazz albums as “Thrust” and “Man Child”. When 1975 rolled around, Herbie had moved on to other things and The Headhunters decided to keep performing without him. Interestingly enough, The Headhunters didn’t replace Herbie with another keyboardist, but instead chose young up and coming guitar whiz Blackbyrd McKnight. Blackbyrd is a criminally over looked guitarist, a pyrotechnical soloist who combines rock flash, jazz complexity and super tight funky rhythms to any project he joins. McKnight is equal parts Steve Vai, Jimi Hendrix and Wah Wah Watson and after The Headhunters, has been a guest with many groups including George Clinton’s P-funk mob and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Overall this is a very solid set of intricate funk jazz leaning towards fusion. The Headhunters rate along side The Meters and The JBs when it comes to the Godfathers of funk jazz, but The Headhunters have the edge when it comes to the more extended jazz influenced jams. Also, due to their ultra technical drummer, Mike Clark, The Headhunters take on the funk is jazzy and abstract in a style where the beat constantly turns around and shifts in unpredictable directions.

One very interesting cut is “Rima” on which the guys, led by ace composer and woodwinds player Bennie Maupin, drop the funk for a bit and get into an extended woodwinds and electronics tone poem similar to Bennie’s work with Herbie on the classic psychedelic jazz masterpiece “Crossings”. When it comes to this sort of exotic space-jazz electronica, only Maupin can match Herbie’s beautiful electro-acoustic orchestrations. The album closes with “If You’ve Got it, You’ll Get it”, on which Blackbyrd is given room to play an extended acid rock/jazz fusion solo reminiscent of the great Pete Cosey.

If you liked The Headhunters work with Herbie, then you will probably enjoy their attempt to carry on without him.

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