Watermelon Man: A Herbie Hancock Review

It may seem strange the title is Cantaloupe Island; but Watermelon Man is on this album.


Chicago’s Herbie Hancock was an accomplished professional classical pianist with an engineering degree but it was his talent as a jazz composer that brought him fame in the early 1960’s, when trumpeter Donald Bird discovered him and took him to New York. Hancock’s jazz piano playing was tasteful, economic and subtle and attracted by the infusion of Blues and roots that re-entered the jazz of the early 60’s. He composed a number of simple but atmospheric melodies and arrangements. These temporarily popularized jazz and some made it to the Pop charts.


‘Watermelon Man’ was one such Hancock composition and in 1962 he recorded his own version for Blue Note records. The melody is simple but catchy and the musicians he recruited gave it atmosphere. It is surely a minor but exciting masterpiece and benefits from the presence of Freddie Hubbard (Tpt); Dexter Gordon (Ten); Butch Warren (Bs) and the master-drummer Billy Higgins. Hancock’s own solo is good but it is the tune and rhythm which are outstanding. Hancock later deserted the jazz world for more fame and fortune and failed to reproduce the melodies of this early 60’s era. Enjoy!

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