The Headhunters

Return of the Headhunters!

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After a two-decade long hiatus, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters returned to action in 1998 with their funk groove pretty much intact, allowing for some technological and stylistic updating. The core of the band -- the too-long-neglected Bennie Maupin (saxes, bass clarinet), Paul Jackson (bass), Bill Summers (percussion), and the group's second drummer Mike Clark -- still has the complex funk telepathic interplay down pat, though occasionally the rhythms are simplified for contemporary audiences. Hancock himself only appears on four tracks, where he tries to comp and stomp out on latter-day digital instruments (alas, he doesn't quite generate the same super funky feeling that he once could on analog clavinets, Fender Rhodes pianos, and ARP synths). Billy Childs fills the keyboard chair in more genteel fashion on the other six tracks, with occasional help from Patrice Rushen, Mark Goodman, and Darrell Smith. The main hangup here is that the revived Headhunters didn't come up with much memorable material, the strongest tracks being the back-to-1974 retro workout "Funk Hunter," and the rhythmically tricky "Kwanzaa," and "Watch Your Back," which features the obligatory rap honoring elder statesmen of music (strange how reverential the nominally rebellious younger set often can be).

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