Herbie Hancock became a giant under the tutelage of giants. With Mwandishi and Headhunters, the former student then reared his own roster of jazz heavyweights. Unfortunately, at the height of his popularity and singular vision, Hancock didn’t get to work those forebears which shaped him into the iconoclast he was to become. Thanks to a Chicago radio recording from February 1977, we do have an opportunity to hear Hancock with another singular voice of his instrument–with both artists at the peak of their prowess. For this seemingly one-off performance Hancock teamed up with the king of the fretless electric bass, Jaco Pastorius.
Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was released a half-century ago this month — and the funk has never been the same. Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of massive 50th anniversary boxed set celebrating this classic crossover LP. But a compiler looking to expand Head Hunters could certainly consider this well-traveled live broadcast from right around the time the album came out. The grooves are ridiculous, whether Herbie and co. are sliding through a scintillating “Butterfly” or finding electrifying new directions in “Chameleon.”
Unlike Bitches Brew’s monolithic density that, at times, obscured the band, it was Mwandishi’s individual players who got the machine up and running. If one part of the equation were to be removed, the entire unit would collapse. It was one of music’s most successful experiments in Group Dynamics and set the tone in jazz for a decade. Here, we have assembled these players at the height of their creative powers in the early seventies. All are accompanied by at least one of their Mwandishi compatriots, and most feature much of the ensemble. The breadth of this universe is expansive but listen closely and the sonic tether keeping them connected is revealed.
“Jazz Harmonie” French television performance. Recorded March 23, 1972 at Studio de Joinville le Pont in Paris, France.
I caught Herbie Hancock in Montreux, Switzerland last week at the Stravinski Auditorium. Presently in the studio laying down tracks for his next LP, Hancock was briefly in town supporting the festival’s 50th anniversary . […]
Space funk incarnate. Last month, perusing bins to pick up a nice copy of Sextant for a pal, I was reminded of the Headhunters 1975 solo debut, Survival Of The Fittest. […]