Watch out. Another super group threatens a huge reunion tour. And fans like us can be happy if at least one band member's name will be found in the original lineup. It doesn't matter anyhow: the status of a legend, the glorious name of the band, the possibility of getting at least a glimpse of the old sound in its original version make going to the concert every fan's duty.
All the better if our fears prove to be unfounded and skepticism becomes euphoria. As experienced on a tour with the jazz funk legends The Headhunters, which covered the whole of Europe in 2007. Top headhunter Herbie Hancock was not aboard the jazz funk flagship – he was probably too busy preparing for his 2008 Grammy victory. But there were two original Headhunters, drummers Mike Clark and Bill Summers, reinforced by newcomers corresponding to the jazz funk profile: saxophonist Donald Harrison (Meters), keyboarder Jerry Z. (Fred Wesley, Melvin Sparks) as well as bassist and “funk machine” T.M.Stevens (James Brown, Miles Davis).
For all those who saw the Headhunters live in 2007, it is obvious after just a few seconds: this is not a cheat package, it's the “real stuff”. Mike Clark starts things with one of those inimitable funk grooves, Bill Summers joins in, then T.M.Stevens with a pumping bass line. The flagship of jazz funk starts to speed things up and celebrates the magic of great Black music – from Afro-Cuban rhythms to emphatic soul. And Stevens, Harrison and Jerry Z. soon make you forget that the co-architects of the original Headhunters sound, Bennie Maupin and especially Paul Jackson, are not aboard. For many contemporary witnesses the 2007 Headhunters are even better than the reunion band with Clarke, Summers, bassist Paul Jackson and saxist Bennie Maupin that Hancock combined for the 1998 album “The Return of the Headhunters”. But it is for anyone to decide on this new double live CD.
But who are the Headhunters anyhow? Even funk researchers are not quite clear about it: Are they the band that played on Hancock's legendary, stylemolding and most successful jazz album of all times, the 1973 “Headhunters” (with Summers, but instead of Clark with studio ace Harvey Mason). Or the band which as “The Headhunters” (augmented by guitarist Dwayne Blackbird McKnight, later guitarist for George Clinton and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) recorded two records without Hancock coveted by vinyl freaks for Arista Records, “Survival of the Fittest” (1976) and “Straight from the Gate” (1977)? The tracklist for the double CD at hand speaks for the first theory: with “Sly”, “Watermelon” and “Chameleon” we have three tracks from Hancock's “Headhunters”, from the two Arista albums there is only that favorite track of all hardcore headhunters fans, “God Make Me Funky”, which was sampled for example by NWA, Prince and Britney Spears.
Even if Mike Clark was not heard on “Headhunters” he is next to Hancock the most important building block of the Headhunters' sound. Hancock remembers: “Of all the jazz musicians I knew, no one knew how to play funk the way I wanted to hear it. So instead of jazz pros who could play funk, I was looking for funk men like Mike, who also knew how to play jazz.” When Headhunters drummer Harvey Mason didn't want to tour because of his studio commitments, Mike Clark was ready. After the successful tour he played on the classic Hancock records “Thrust” (1974), “Man-Child” (1975) and the Japan-live-recording “Flood” (1975) – until Hancock's ever more commercial sound – L.A.-Sunshine-Jazz-Meets-Disco – became too shallow for him. Clark later played with the jazz rockers Brand X - sharing drum duties with a certain Phil Collins - with Betty Davis and Shawn Phillips. Bill Summers remained with Hancock's band a little longer. At the same time he was working on a solo career and hit the charts just like Miles Davis' percussionist Mtume with earcatching disco funk (His hit was called “Straight to the Bank”). While Hancock was producing breakdance hits (“Rockit”) and thus fended off his career turn, in the beginning of the eighties it became quiet around Clark and Summers. In the cool eighties nothing was less cool than jazz funk, excepting maybe jazz rock wanking. But when mind-expanding hip hoppers discovered the Headhunters as a sampling source they were up to date again – especially because of Clark's crisp bass drum and his dry snare sound. But excepting a little cash money (summing up to about 10.000 dollars for the sampling rights) Clark didn't get much profit out of the new-found interest in headhunting grooves. It wasn't until the flourishing jam band scene, which was – in people such as Karl Denson, DJ Logic or Charlie Hunter – inspired by the Headhunters, that the band got the decisive kick for their comeback. As you can hear and see on this recording they have lost nothing of their timeless fascination (and they're not merely playing their old classics): wild universal funk combined with the depth of jazz. If the world is just, this great comeback of Summers, Clark & Co. will pay. Because they sure didn't get much out of the Headhunters' glory. As Summers has to tell: “Herbie Hancock made millions with the headhunters, we only made a few dollars.”
Bernd Schwope (English version: Stephan Richter)
Bill Summers / percussionist
Bill Summers, born in Detroit Michigan with deep roots in Louisiana. Bill’s musical training began at six at The Detroit conservatory of music and spanned a 10-year period of classical training. Music became Bill’s entire focus early in life. A self taught Saxophonist/flautist, he began working the Detroit club scene at the age of 16. After Quitting high school Bill landed a job as a busboy at the Detroit Race Course. One day while at work he placed a bet in a big race using some of his tip money. His horse won the race. This allowed him to purchase a round trip ticket to San Francisco California. While there he discovered that he could attend a junior college if he were a resident of the state.
One thing led to another and Bill began his college career at Merritt junior collage in Oakland California. One year later Bill Applied for admission with The University of California Berkeley and was accepted. “This was a major turning point in my life,” states Bill. “I never believed in my wildest dreams that this was the path that I would follow”.
After spending 4 years at UC Berkeley Bill won the coveted Eisner Prize awarded to the top student in each department. In the same year Bill met Herbie Hancock and was offered a position in Herbie’s new ensemble, which would later be known as The Headhunters. This group recorded their initial recording entitled Headhunters, the first platinum jazz project in history.
Bill, in 1977 went on to create his own solo project/group Summers Heat boasting 9 releases and several chart busting R&B singles “Call It What You Want” “ Jam The Box” and others.
Bill Summers has recorded &/or performed with the following Artists:
Airto & Flora Purim, Alex Acuna, Alice Coltrane, Alvin Bastiste, Andre Crouch, Anita Baker, Arsenio Hall, Barry White, Bennie Maupin, Big Daddy Kane, Billy Childs, Billy Cobham, Billy Hart, The Black Birds, Bobby Hutcherson, Bobby Womack, Branford Marsalis, Buster Williams, Cachao, Cal Tjader, Carlos Garnet, Carlos Santana, Carmen Branford, Carol Kaye, Chaiphus Semenya, Charles Neville, Chuck Rainey, Cyril Neville, Danilo Perez, Dave Matthews, David "Fathead" Newman, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Delfio Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Dinah Shore, Dizzy Gillespie, Dorothy Ashby, Eddie Henderson, Eddy Grant, Ella Fitzgerald, Emil Richards, Everette Harp, Franky Beverley, Freddie Hubbard, Gary Bartz, Gato Barbieri, George Clinton, George Duke, George Howard, George Porter, George Segal, Gerald Albright, Gerry Garcia, Glen Velez, Harvey Mason, The Headhunters, Henry Butler, Henry Mancini, Herb Alpert, Herbie Hancock, Howard Hewitt, Hubert Laws, Hubert Laws, Hugh Masekela, Ice Tea, The Isley Brothers, Jack Dejohnnete, James Gadson, James Moody, Janet Jackson, Jason Marsalis, Jerry Hey, Joe Henderson, Joe Sample, Joe Zawinul, John Beasley, John Cleary, John Faddis, John Lucien, John Patitucci, John Santos, Johnny Hammond, Johnny Nash, Julian Priester, Kenny Loggins, Kool Moe Dee, Lamont Dozier, Larry Williams, Lavar Burton, Lee Ritenour, Lenny Kravitz, Lenny Williams, Leon Thomas, Letta Mbulu, Lou Gossett Jr., Luis Conte, Madonna, Malik Yoba, McCoy Tyner, Melissa Muldar, Melle Mel, Merle Saunders, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Michael Jackson, Mike Clark, Miles Davis, Morris Pleasure, Munyungo Jackson, Munyungo Jackson's Jungle Book, Ndea Davenport, Norman Conners, Oscar Brashear, Pancho Quinto, Patrice Rushen, Paul Jackson, Paul Jackson Jr., Paulinho Da Costa, Perri, Pete Escovedo, Pharoah Saunders, Phil Perry, Phyllis Hyman, Pleasure, Pointer Sisters, Prince, Quincy Jones, Ray Obiedo, Roland Kirk, Ron Carter, Ronnie Laws, Roy Ayers, Salif Keita, Sarah Vaughn, Seidah Garrett, Sergio Mendez, Shawn Phillips, Sheila E., Sherry Lewis, Skip Burney, SkullDuggery, Sonny Rollins, Speech, Stanley Clarke, Stanley Turrentine, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Sun Ra, Take 6, Tevin Campbell, Tony Williams, Vinx, Wah Wah Watson, Wallace Roney, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Young MC, Zap Mama
MIKE CLARK DRUMMER / BAND LEADER
MIKE CLARK gained worldwide recognition as one of America's foremost jazz and funk drummers while playing with Herbie Hancock's group in the early 1970's. Mike became known as a major innovator through his incisive playing on Hancock's Thrust album, which garnered him an international cult following.
Mike has performed with jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Larry Coryell, Jack Wilkins, Wallace Roney, Geri Allen, Billy Childs, James Genus, Bob Hurst, Chris Potter, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Dave Liebman, Nat Adderly, Oscar Brown Jr., Bill Doggett, Mose Allison, Maxine Brown, Gil Evans and his orchestra, and did a stint with Brand X, the acclaimed British fusion band, founded by Phil Collins. He has performed throughout the world at all the major jazz venues and festivals.
Featured in Downbeat, Musician, International Musician & Recording World, Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Guitar Player, Jazz Is and numerous jazz history and method books, Mike is a former faculty member of Drummers Collective, and is a popular and busy clinician around the country.
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.
CBS Sunday Morning is calling Donald Harrison one of the most important musicians of the new millennium. A list of his accomplishments shows that he has developed into a musical category unto himself. In the classic jazz genre, he is the originator of the Nouveau Swing style which merges acoustic swing with modern R&B, second-line, hip-hop, (New Orleans African American roots culture), and reggae rhythms. Harrison now a proven master of many musical genres and has written and performed many innovative classic jazz compositions. Some of his compositions are now part of the standard repertoire of jazz. Today the 47-year-old saxophonist is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of these times, yet he remains inextricably tied to his New Orleans roots.
Jerry Z is a fresh voice on the organ/keyboards and is quickly gaining recognition as one of the most original and innovative musicians on the New York jazz/funk scene. With a style all his own, Z has captured the attention of audiences at home and abroad with fresh melodies, potent grooves and soulful compositions.
Mark Shim (b. November 11, 1973) is a jazz tenor saxophonist. He is a skillful musician with the ability to lift you up take you away on his lyrical solos. At the same time his style can morph to the rough edge complementing the other side of his ID. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Shim's family moved to Canada when he was eight and then settled in Richmond, Virginia five years later.
He started on sax in seventh grade, graduating from high school in 1991 and attending Virginia Commonwealth University and William Paterson College. In 1994 he moved to Brooklyn, where he played and recorded with Hamiett Bluiett in Harlem. He then played with Mose Allison, Betty Carter, Greg Osby, and the Mingus Big Band.
TM Steven's skill and proficiency globally as a bassist and vocalist is legendary. A luminous figure amongst today's bassists, he has unbelievable energy, stunning stage presence and knows how to win a crowd over within minutes. His ferocious, yet melodic, style of bass is as unique as his larger than life persona. Never losing sight of his own special blend of signature roots music Heavy Metal Funk with his band Shocka Zooloo, TM's versatility and heavyweight skills as producer, songwriter, singer and instrumentalist are obvious on his now six solo albums with a seventh due in summer of 2006
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