John Jones in conversation with South of North founder Dominik Rodemann. I was first introduced to the Amsterdam-based label South of North by way of their 2018 debut […]
Watch Herbie Hancock and the Head Hunters Blow Minds in Munich (1989)
The genius keyboardist’s jazz-funk band was on fire – and a pro film crew captured the moment.
In 1973, a restless Herbie Hancock, fresh from his cosmically free work with Mwandishi, had a notion. But before getting to said notion, watch this video (YouTube embed is unavailable so click the link):
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPN0HglAtsc
His muse was sending him a message about future projects, he wrote in the late 1990s. “I began to feel that I had been spending so much time exploring the upper atmosphere of music and the more ethereal kind of far-out spacey stuff.”
Hancock felt what he called “this need to take some more of the earth and to feel a little more tethered; a connection to the earth. … I was beginning to feel that we (the sextet) were playing this heavy kind of music, and I was tired of everything being heavy. I wanted to play something lighter.”
The first project to come out of this pathway was “Headhunter,” a miraculous jazz-funk album that helped define the sound of the decade. Featuring, most famously, Hancock’s revised take on his song “Watermelon Man,” the record sounds as fresh today as upon its release nearly 50 years ago.
“Headhunter” went platinum, justifying Hancock’s exploratory notion. The success led him to form a whole new band called the Head Hunters, a revolving group that has been occasionally reconvening ever since.
“The thing that keeps jazz alive, even if it’s under the radar, is that it is so free and so open to not only lend its influence to other genres,” Hancock told the New York Times during a conversation about Headhunter, “but to borrow and be influenced by other genres. That’s the way it breathes.” (Read Classic Album Sundays’ great overview of the album here.)
In 1989, Hancock and the Head Hunters toured Europe. In Munich, a professional film crew captured the show. To say it’s a revelation is an understatement: Given proper volume, this performance will rewire your brain.
Here’s a 20-minute take on “Chameleon.”
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBUfW2uwMZw
Hancock turns over the stage to percussionist Mino Cinelu. Behold:
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2Jlc9j1xXo
Unfortunately, the complete concert isn’t currently available on YouTube, but most of the set can be found here.
- Herbie Hancock – piano, keyboards
- Bill Evans – saxophone
- Wah-Wah Watson – guitar
- Darryl Jones – bass
- Ndugu Chancler – drums
- Mino Cinelu – percussion
For comparison, here’s a 40-minute set from 14 years earlier at Winterland in San Francisco.
Line-up for the Winterland set:
- Herbie Hancock – piano, keyboards
- Mike Clark – drums
- Paul Jackson – bass, vocals
- Bennie Maupin – saxophone, clarinet
- DeWayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight – guitar, vocals
- Bill Summers – percussion
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