Head Hunters, the twelfth studio album of the jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, is a jazz-funk and fusion album released in 1973. Head Hunters was the product of the experimentalist attempts by Hancock and his sextet. After Crossings and Sextant, Head Hunters drew the sextet to a completely different sound. Herbie explains this difference in sound in one of his sleeve notes in a CD issue: “I began to feel that I had been spending so much time exploring the upper atmosphere of music … I was tired of everything being heavy. I wanted to play something lighter.”
Herbie decided that a new group was needed for these new ideas. He assembled a group, as the name with the album, the Head Hunters. This group had only Bennie Maupin from his sextet, the two newcomers were Paul Jackson on the bass guitar and Harvey Mason on drums. The overall of this new band tended for a relaxed and blues-like rhythmic sound. This style led the group into a more funky style, the jazz-fusion – deviating from the mainstream and free jazz ecoles in the 70s.
The extensive use of electronic instruments and the focused rhythmic sections clearly show the funk influence in the album. Different from other bands and albums in the decade under the influence of fusion like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, what made Head Hunters (album and the group) was their “lowness”, as Hancock states. The Head Hunters dig right into the heart of funk music and prevent overcomplicating the sound while trying to make it appeal more intellectual.
Chameleon, the first and longest track in the album, starts with a strong bassline. It’s loud, pretty loud, and catchy. Even though the main melody starts after a few minutes, the bassline is funky and doesn’t bore the listener. The emphasis on the bassline and the highlight in the rhythmic section can be said to be one of the most important features of Head Hunters.
Have a listen to this one of the funkiest jazz albums, Head Hunters!