“Their Most Ambitious Album Since the 1970s” – DOWNBEAT
The Legendary Headhunters’ Surprising New CD to Feature Snoop Dogg, George Clinton & Others
Owl Studios Readies ‘Platinum’ for June
In the March issue of DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE, writer Eric Fine previews ‘Platinum’, the upcoming Owl Studios release by Jazz/funk/fusion legends THE HEADHUNTERS, lead by founding members and co-leaders Mike Clark and Bill Summers. Fine describes the June CD as the band’s “most ambitious album since the 1970s” —
‘Platinum’ features special appearances by Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, Killah Priest, Del the Funky Homosapien and others — the inclusion of guest vocalists/rappers is deftly incorporated into the soulful grooves laid down by the pioneering Headhunters. The concept behind the new album is fitting – as noted in a recent article: “Jazz/fusion groundbreakers the Headhunters have been sampled by countless hip-hop and pop artists. These days, the band is incorporating rap and hip-hop into its own sound.”
Renowned drummer Mike Clark previewed the project as “some of the finest musicians playing some killer funk, which is always a lot of fun. This time we stir it up with spoken word from a multi generational mix of artists, telling it like it is and always has been.” Venerable percussionist Bill Summers added the amalgam of rhythm, melody and spoken word represents “true fusion of Hip Hop, Jazz, Rap, Salsa, Rock, New Orleans, African rhythm and its classical forms.”
March, 2011 issue By Eric Fine
New Headhunting Funk Experience
Classic ’70s Jazz Fusion Band Returns To Studio With Surprising Guests
Drummer Mike Clark earned acclaim as a master of funk rhythms after joining Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters in 1973. But Clark is hardly nostalgic about his four-year tenure with the band. Ask Clark whether he thought the Headhunters would still exist more than 30 years after the band regularly backed Hancock, and Clark responds quickly: Absolutely not, he says. He would have been especially shocked with the group’s new incarnation and its planned spring release. A reunion album (Return Of The Headhunters!) in 1998 notwithstanding, the Headhunters’ new era began after a promoter asked Clark to assemble a jazz-funk band in the late 1990s for a national tour.
Appearing under the name Prescription Renewal, the lineup paired young players like guitarist Charlie Hunter and DJ Logic with original Headhunters bassist Paul Jackson, organ player Dr. Lonnie Smith and trombonist Fred Wesley. After percussionist Bill Summers, another original Headhunter, sat in with Clark, the two revived the Headhunters’ moniker in 2001 while adding saxophonist Donald Harrison to the lineup. Recent editions of the Headhunters continue to mix youth and experience, and have toured internationally. The band embarked on a series of dates in November at pop-oriented venues, where it performed on bills that also featured the Mumbles, a keyboard duo from London. The current group includes rapper Private Pile, and increasingly spotlights new material. It resurrects 1970s tunes like “Watermelon Man” and “Sly,” but only by request.
“I don’t mind playing these tunes,” Clark said, “but we put the focus on what we’re doing now. Nobody’s even thinking about the old days, [and] nobody’s reflecting back on what we did with Herbie. This is a different group of musicians, except for Bill and me.”
The Headhunters will release their most ambitious album since the 1970s in May. Platinum (Owl Studios) will include rapper Snoop Dogg, funk legend George Clinton and original Headhunter saxophonist Bennie Maupin.
Al Hall, the album’s executive producer, was reluctant to incorporate rap, but relented after establishing guidelines. “I said let’s go ahead and do it, but with three rules: no racial stuff; no heavy cursing; and no demonizing women.” And so [Clark and Summers] looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t have anything to do,’” Hall said, laughing. You should have heard the first track we had—immediately, it was all three [taboos] pulled into one or two sentences,” said Hall, who founded Owl Studios in 2005 in Indianapolis. “We’re working around that. It’s kind of a business part of it that you can’t have radio play if you’re going to be using the f-word, the n-word or all those other things.”
Profane or not, bassist Richie Goods said the band attracts a growing number of the young people largely absent from straight-ahead gigs. “Even if we didn’t have the rapper there’s a whole younger audience that’s into what we do,” said Goods, the Headhunters’ bassist since 2007. “But that’s the direction they want to move. Everyone’s writing a lot of music, and they recorded some new music, and they want almost like a new face for the Headhunters. I don’t think they ever want to take those vintage songs out of their repertoire, but they want to start building a new repertoire that’s just as strong as the old repertoire.” —Eric Fine – DOWNBEAT, 3/11
The ambitious project was also previewed via JAZZIZ.com (see below.) and The Headhunters offered fans a sneak peek of the album during a U.S. tour late last year – in advance of a local concert, The Philadelphia Inquirer hailed them as “one of the most innovative groups in history.”
Surprises abound on the new CD – ‘D-Funk’ is a bawdy romp featuring both Snoop Dogg and George Clinton (and is the track most likely to earn Owl Studios its first-ever ‘Explicit Content’ sticker!); ‘Salamander’ is a funky instrumental groove, a late-night hip grinder in which each member of The Headhunters gets his moment to shine; ‘Mission Statement’ is simply bad-ass, as guest rapper Jaecyn Bayne nails this one (as, of course, does the band,) asserting a memorable hook that will surely emerge as one of the highlights of the album. Advance copies will be available soon.
Artists appearing on The Headhunters’ ‘Platinum’ album include: Bill Summers – percussion; Mike Clark – drums; Rob Dixon – tenor sax; Derrick Gardner – trumpet; Donald Harrison – alto sax; Richie Goods –bass; Kyle Roussel – keys; Patrice Rushen – keys; Bennie Maupin – tenor sax and bass clarinet. Guest Artists on the album (subject to change) include: Killah Priest; Del the Funky Homosapien; Jaecyn Bayne; Kentyah Fraser; Snoop Dogg; George Clinton.
Owl Studios is an award-winning, independent record label, with an artist roster that includes a Grammy-nominated artist, two Independent Music Award winners, an American Pianists Association Jazz Fellowship recipient, and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Performer Award recipient. In the short time since its inception, Owl Studios has become a well-respected, artist-friendly record label in the genres of Jazz, R&B, Neo Soul, Jazz Fusion and Jam Band. Learn more about Owl Studios, here: http://www.owlstudios.com/
JAZZIZ.com – News column and photo for the Headhunters CD and tour
THE HEADHUNTERS HIT THE ROAD
The storied jazz/funk/fusion band, the Headhunters, are currently finalizing tracks for Platinum, a CD set for release early next year on the Owl Studios label. The disc will feature guest appearances by several intriguing names, including Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, Killah Priest, and Del the Funky Homosapien. In the meantime, the legendary band will embark on a U.S. tour in November. (See dates, venues and cities below.)
Of the new album and the new year, not-overly modest Headhunters percussionist Bill Summers says: “2011 will mark the beginning of a new movement in music and jazz — the true fusion of hip hop, jazz, rap, salsa, rock, New Orleans, African rhythm and its classical forms. The Headhunters are steeped in the funk and jazz traditions. The groove is undeniable and the layers of rhythm, melody and spoken word in this release will raise the bar and set a benchmark for the world to follow. The truth of the matter is, we respect all forms of music and see a place in this unusual musical tapestry for every form of modern and ancient music forms. The project is entitled Platinum. For some this is an award presented to those who achieve a feat of reaching one million units sold and certified. For us, Platinum is a self-proclamation of achievement for creating a project deserving of recognition, and will be heard and appreciated by the millions of listeners worldwide.” The Headhunters were founded in 1973 and served as the supporting band for Herbie Hancock’s 12th studio album, Head Hunters, which became one of the best-selling jazz records ever. The Headhunters went on to record a handful of additional albums with Hancock, and they’ve also released a couple of winning platters on their own. Jazziz.com, 10/22/10
Click the links below to read recent tour preview articles:
The Roanoke Times
TOUR PREVIEW INTERVIEW FEATURE By Tad Dickens 11/10
Rap, hip-hop in the mix for Headhunters
PHILLYBURBS/COURIER TIMES NEWS
Jazz-funk masters The Headhunters to perform at North Star Bar
Other tour coverage includes PHILLY DAILY NEWS; 7Days, the key Alternative weekly in Burlington; VALLEY VOICE in Portland ME, which praised “the Headhunters have redefined modern funk, world music, and jazz”; The ITHACA TIMES http://www.ithacatimes.com/main.asp?SubSectionID=63&ArticleID=13076&SectionID=3
and much more.
More About THE HEADHUNTERS:
Founded in 1973, they recorded their eponymous debut Head Hunters with Herbie Hancock. The Headhunters, legendary jazz-funk fusion band, immortalized as a result of their long recording and touring stint with jazz giant Herbie Hancock. Hancock’s “Headhunters” album was the first to be recorded with the group and has been heralded as the first platinum Jazz/Fusion project in history. Thrust, Flood, Manchild and other historic recordings followed. The band went on to produce more seminal records on their own, including Survival of the Fittest, which featured the funk anthem “God Make Me Funky,” one of the most sampled jazz/fusion songs in modern music history. The Headhunters’ music is a complex but harmonious blend of many styles and genres, spanning the globe, from Africa to Broadway. The group is acclaimed for its musical pioneering and innovative concepts.
More about MIKE CLARK: Originally from Oakland, California, Mike is credited with pioneering a particular style of East Bay funk drumming along with Dave Garibaldi of Tower of Power fame. Called “the most sampled drummer in hip hop” Mike’s beats have been used on tracks by musicians as diverse as NWA, Grandmaster Flash, Britney Spears, Prince and many others. His diverse genre-defying talent continues to astound audiences and influence successive generations of drummers since his explosive arrival on the music scene with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters. It is widely accepted that Clark is one of the few, in the category of Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, to have changed the fundamental language of the drums. Clark’s Owl Studios debut, ‘Carnival of Soul’, has earned universally rave reviews.
More about BILL SUMMERS: To say that Bill is a percussionist is like saying a Steinway is a piano: the noun conveys none of the history and quality of the owner of the title. Born in Detroit Michigan, a veteran of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, knows literally hundreds of African, Cuban & Latin percussion rhythms from decades of study. Bill steers the helm of the Summers Multi-Ethnic Institute of the Arts, and is a musician of the highest order, playing anything from traditional African instruments to pop bottles.