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Herbie Hancock: Headhunters

Given jazz’s long-recognized ability to stir the groove juices, it’s hard to point to any one release as a preeminent example of sophisticated funkology. But if you were to limit your discussion to the post-Electric Miles era, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Herbie Hancock’s 1973 classic, Headhunters (Columbia/Legacy CK 65123, 48:01). The first certified gold jazz album in history, this disc’s release represented year one for a generation of fusionoid rhythm junkies. Why? Not just because its signature tune, “Chameleon,” eventually made its way into the repertoire of every bar band in the country. Hancock grasped the simple-is-complex/every-instrument-a-rhythm-instrument concept that is crucial to any jam’s glide factor. Even at this point, long after the familiar six note “Chameleon” bass riff has lapsed into clichŽ, Headhunters still outstrips the vast majority of the stuff that came after (right up until the present), thanks to Hancock’s tart, minimalist phrasing. Hancock would follow the biscuits and gravy train through albums like Secrets and Man-Child, notable in their own right. But this is where it all started.

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