The Headhunters @ Nectar Lounge

Funk more seductive than a roomful of Prince bootlegs 🕺🏽

📸: Courtesy Nectar Lounge

October 19 • 7:30 pm

If you like Golden Age hip-hop, odds are you’ve heard the Headhunters, whether you realize it or not. They rose to prominence in 1973 as legendary jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock’s backing band for the Head Hunters LP, which sold over a million copies. On that record, 1974’s Thrust, and 1975’s Man-Child, the Headhunters helped Hancock to cross over to the funky-fusion movement with songs that combined dazzling rhythmic complexity with flamboyant soloing, all while keeping the dance floor lit.

Breaking off from their leader with 1975’s stunning Survival Of The Fittest, the Headhunters flexed even harder, cutting PhD-level head-nodders and hip-swivelers such as “God Make Me Funky” and “If You’ve Got It, You’ll Get It,” which have been sampled hundreds of times. They dropped another hot slab of cerebral funk with 1977’s Straight From The Gate, but in subsequent decades they’ve recorded only sporadically.

Now based in New Orleans and down to two members from the classic lineup—percussionist Bill Summers and drummer Mike Clark—the Headhunters have made a strong comeback on Speakers In The House. With keyboardist Kyle Roussel, bassist Reggie Washington, and saxophonist Donald Harrison on board, the Headhunters revel in the Crescent City’s tradition for humid funk and second line drum beats, exemplified on the earth-moving yet slinky “Rocking At The Mole House.” Another highlight, “HH75,” is boudoir funk more seductive than a roomful of Prince bootlegs. Overall, Speakers proves that the Headhunters have maintained vitality in a genre that most thought had died in the early ’80s.

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Dave Segal

Dave Segal

Dave Segal is a freelance music writer for The Wire, Pitchfork, Aquarium Drunkard, and other publications. He formerly served as staff writer at The Stranger and as managing editor at Alternative Press. Find him on Twitter @editaurus