When world-renowned keyboardist/producer David Garfield was just starting out in the early ’70s, he was immediately attracted to jazz icon Herbie Hancock’s brilliant acoustic piano work, as well as his funky electric keyboard explorations with the Head Hunters. Over the years, David was able to perform with him and eventually got to know him.
“Hunting Heads,” the new single from Garfield’s upcoming all-star recording Stretchin’ Outside The Box,’ was written as a musical tribute to Hancock, blending his jazz piano origins with the Fender Rhodes electric piano, funky clavinet and electronic synthesizers. Featuring guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., “Hunting Heads” was mixed by two-time Grammy winner Erik Zobler and Garfield, who also produced and arranged the track.
“I first discovered Herbie Hancock as a teenager, listening to Miles Davis’ classic quintet recordings. He was on many iconic Blue Note albums as well.
“Maiden Voyage, one of his many solo records, made a real impact on me with its impressionistic feel. It seemed like Herbie played on everyone’s projects and was very much in demand because of his versatile skillset. ‘Watermelon Man’ was a commercial hit and I liked that style of jazz as soon as I heard it. When I listened to his newly released Head Hunters record in 1973, it blew my mind. He was using electric instruments and playing funky, modern stuff – very influenced by Sly Stone. I was all in. I soon bought a Fender Rhodes electric piano and a wah-wah pedal and moved to California, where Herbie was based, to start my own band.
“In 1976, I joined Freddie Hubbard’s group and, one week later, I was in New York watching Herbie’s V.S.O.P. Quintet at City Center. My dreams were coming true. But when I went backstage, I was too shy to approach Herbie, who was surrounded by cats like Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams and Joe Zawinul.
“In Berlin in 1977, we played on the same bill, but again I was tongue tied. This continued for decades until 1994 when we performed together at the House of Blues in LA. Even though Herbie was a special guest with my band, Los Lobotomys, I was still in awe of him and afraid to speak. When we started playing, I felt I needed to hold back and not ‘upstage’ my hero.
“Finally, in 2008, I was at Holland’s North Sea Jazz festival with my friend, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who was a member of Herbie’s band. Herbie came over and I realized I had to overcome my feelings of awe. I went up to him and said, ‘We’ve been crossing paths now for over thirty years and it’s because of you that I’ve made keyboards my life’s work. Although we’ve never spoken, I feel we’re like family.’ He smiled, then hugged me, and from that day forward I’ve been at ease in his presence.
“I decided to write ‘Hunting Heads’ to honor Herbie, his brilliant musical achievements and his many melodic and harmonic inventions, using the instruments that he championed: the Fender Rhodes, clavinet, synthesizers and grand piano. I utilized the syncopated sounds of soprano saxophonist Steve Tavaglione and world beat percussionist Munyungo Jackson that he always incorporated, as well as the brilliant and unique guitar work of Paul Jackson Jr, to give the track a funky sheen. I also tried to draw on the contemporary motifs of Prince, as Herbie did with Sly, to update the sound. Two of the most dynamic players of the younger generation, drummer ‘Lil’ John’ Roberts and bassist Alex Al, provide the spark.