Herbie Hancock: Watermelon Man (from Head Hunters, 1973)
Herbie Hancock and Headhunters
Head Hunters (Columbia 65123)
Composed by Herbie Hancock.
Recorded: San Francisco, September, 1973
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Always dangerous to try to remake a classic. You can't just turn Citizen Kane into an story about an Internet media tycoon or make Moby Dick into a reality show. But every once in a while, an old masterpiece gets a fresh, invigorating take. Here Herbie Hancock reconfigures his 1962 hard-bop hit "Watermelon Man" into a 1973 fusion tune. Bill Summers' brilliant work on percussion (including a very cool imitation of the African hindewhu achieved by blowing into a beer bottle) is worth the price of admission alone. And Hancock gets high marks for the daring step of bringing the tempo down several notches from his Blue Note version, proving that slow-mo can be funkier than fast-forward. And when it's all done, put it on replay to hear that Summers intro one more time. Here is fusion that really fuses, drawing on African, Caribbean and jazz traditions, and mixing them into a cross-cultural gumbo.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia