Saturday, April 12, 2014

Herbie the Funk Bug

I hope you're all ready to funk and funk hard... what else is Saturday for, anyway? Today's installment brings us a birthday tribute to a behemoth of the last 50+ years of music on Earth. If you're looking for a figure more at the cutting edge of sound for longer, I'm afraid you'll be hard pressed to discover one. To put it more bluntly, you'll be looking a long, long time.
Born this day in 1940, Herbert Jeffrey Hancock is a name synonymous with the most tasteful and lasting trends in jazz and the popular music of our lifetimes. Herbie needs no fanfare but since it's his 74th b'day today I am gonna break out the trumpets regardless.
Speaking of trumpets, he started with Miles Davis in the mid-Sixties classic Quintet, and things have only gotten more influential since. One of the pioneers of the electric streetfunk sound that dominates popular culture today through hip-hop, his 1970s bands Mwandishi and Headhunters laid the trail for everyone that followed. There's a reason why 1973's Headhunters debut LP is still the top-selling jazz recording in human history, and it's not because you can't dance to it.
Don't believe me? You may not realize this, but music and its toppermost players used to be a mutual admiration and education society, before punk came along to brand all skilled musicians as traitors to rock-n-roll's eternal three-minute, two-chord backseat love song. Witness this little exchange between myself and King Crimson's Robert Fripp about Herbie, concerning how things used to be, if you need convincing.
This, as Robert says in that diary entry in answer to my story, is music that just goes higher and higher, and every time you're sure things have plateaued and you can take a breath and wipe off the grease, it ramps up again to take you further still. If you're looking for the pure, uncut funk, I don't see how that journey doesn't begin and end with these Headhunters here. And this is to say nothing of Herbie's other adventures in straight-ahead jazz before this stuff in the '60s and his sample-heavy electro-dance music afterwards in the 1980s.
So in honor of this esteemed birthday occasion, I offer you this utterly mind-cooking, pristine quality DVD of a full, 65-minute funk rumble featuring this most legendary band at the peak of their powers in the mid-'70s. Recorded for WDR's Musikladen in 1974 and rebroadcast on German TV in 2010, please welcome one of the deepest, most funkified groups ever to walk on a stage on this planet.
Herbie Hancock & Headhunters
Bremen, Germany
November 1974

01 Palm Grease
02 Sly   
03 Butterfly
04 Spank-A-Lee
05 Chameleon

Total time: 66:27

Herbie Hancock - keyboards
Paul Jackson - electric bass
Bennie Maupin - saxophones
Bill Summers - percussion
Mike Clark - drums

PAL DVD from 2010 WDR-TV rebroadcast
OK? That's my story and I'm sticking to it... maybe when KC tours in the Fall you'll go see them and turn around at intermission, only to find Maestro Herbie seated directly behind you. And I didn't even mention how this one time I saw him play in San Francisco and he did the whole first half of Dolphin Dance on the inside of the piano, just on the strings in there. But either way, enjoy this return to the 1970s and get those heads bobbing like a Saturday demands... it's Herbie Hancock's big day and heavyweights such as he deserve the undivided attention of your hips immediately. --J.

1 comment:

  1. I was fortunate enough to see Herbie on the New Standards Tour in Atlanta. After the show he came out and visited with us rabid can't get enough notes.It was at a place called Variety Playhouse.Dave Holland on ContraBass was unbelievably yummy yumyum.Look for that....this has to be 1998 or sumthing like that.