Head Hunters is the golden standard for outstanding musical composition and flow in jazz music. To say that Herbie Hancock is one of the greats would be a disservice to him and to this testament to the music world. Head Hunters is not only an immensely intense record with tempo changes and complete beat switch ups in a second, but it is also one of the greatest jazz fusion records of all time.
Herbie Hancock is the mastermind behind the twelfth studio album simply titled, Head Hunters. This four track long LP may sound underwhelming, but if you know anything about Herbie Hancock, you know that what his albums lack in song quantity, they make up for in song quality and length.
Head Hunters is just over the forty-one-minute mark, and when the crunchy sounding synth lead kicks off the album with the rest of the band finally joining in, it gives off this moment of intrigue into where the LP will flow to.
Beginning almost softly and with a more laid back tone on “Chameleon,” Head Hunters soon picks up to be a near free-form jazz standard that melts the face of anyone listening. As “Chameleon” continues on this near bouncing walk of an almost funk beat, it slowly changes into something that is not at all like the original start. It slowly picks up into the crash of an amazing synth solo that seems to echo in the mind for hours. The drums and background horns are also great at backing up and keeping the very tightly-knit sound together.
There is also this great part where “Chameleon” changes into what sounds like a chase scene from a dramatic movie, where the drums pick up and the strings behind the band create this intense overtone to the track.
The next track which is titled “Watermelon Man” has this interesting use of flute that reigns through the track, which only breaks as the song slows down to a near crawl. Which then builds back up to the original beat, when first hearing “Watermelon Man,” the different flutes and background vocals that pass as near shouts almost made me laugh. Then when the bass kicks in and has this booming drum track that is filtering in and out of fills just creates this great use of everything Hancock had to use. Head Hunters is an album that is not only complex, but also layered and shows these great progressions through each track. It is almost as if the tracks have tracks inside themselves.
Hancock then moves into a more free-form style of track with the song “Sly.” This is where the Saxophone wails, the jungle beats form, and the cymbal blasts just rampage through the track. The build up is rather slow, but as the track moves along, it becomes more and more frantic. This is where Head Hunters is able to show the true power of the musicians on each instrument. The multiple layering and just how outstanding the actual sound is, was just incredible to experience. By the end of “Sly” the band is in full Bravado, blaring everything they have into one single song.
The finale of Head Hunters is by far my favorite track on the whole LP, “Vein Melter” is the perfect send off. The thumping bass line and the string ensemble creates this great rhythm to the track, but the piano and keyboards are the real important pieces of the puzzle. The high toned keys that Hancock plays just seem to bounce effortlessly through this dark, noir-like, two in the morning jazz club feel. Head Hunters is not only a perfectly created composition, but it is a journey to another realm known only to us, as Herbie Hancock’s World.