Album Review: Headhunters, Herbbie Hancock, 1973

This album is one of the most important in jazz music. It was among the first to fuse a funk sensibility with jazz arrangements and improvisation. The keyboards are innovative and foreshadow the legendary status Herbie Hancock would achieve. The opening of “Watermelon Man” is genius in its use of unconventional instruments, resetting the jazz audience’s expectation of how rhythm and melody can be rendered. “Chameleon” is to bass players as “Smoke on the Water” is to guitarists. With more structure than a traditional jazz composition, “Chameleon” made the pop crossover conceivable, although the length of this track allows for long, luxurious improvised solos by Hancock’s talented collaborators.

With Headhunters, Hancock expanded the jazz genre. Years later, with “Rockit” he continued to innovate new ways to present jazz to new audiences. It can be said, in fact, that Hancock helped open the door of the 21st century so jazz music could walk through it.