27/12/2018: “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock

This is easily one of the coolest songs of all time. As far as I know, there’s no widely accepted way to quantify cool, but this is off the charts anyway.

It was first released in 1962 as a more standard Jazz record, but was reworked in 1973.

The most instantly noticeable part of the song is the intro, which is blowing into a beer bottle in the style of Central African Pygmy tribes, the hindewhu technique. In case you’re wondering how they knew what that was, they’d listened to The Music of the Ba-Benzélé Pygmies, a 1966 album.

Rhythmically, the song is masterful. Hancock made a concerted attempt to incorporate the funk of Sly & The Family Stone and other leading artists, and in particular, the way that the instruments groove with each other.

The bass (a wonderfully funky affair) leads the rest, with a dancing guitar. The song then drops into some organ stabs, and generally just jams.

The drums are jazzy enough to be interesting, but still kick hard like in funk.  There’s a lot of African influences and percussion.

The song is a Jazz standard, which means it’s really famous and an important part of performers’ selections.

It was released on the 1973 album Head Hunters. 

Amazing song!