For pioneering jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, who played in the Miles Davis Quintet in the '60s, 1973's Head Hunters was a massive success and a landmark album in jazz fusion. He led his funky backing group, the Headhunters, with heavy electric synths on a record that outsold even Davis' fusion masterpiece, Bitches Brew. The Headhunters struck out on their own in the years following the album, and while Hancock is not to be heard on this 1975 live recording at San Francisco's Winterland, the group without him still brought the funk in a deep, spacey way.
The lineup here features the musicians that appeared on Hancock's follow-up to Head Hunters, 1974's Thrust, with new drummer, Mike Clark, as well as guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, whose guitar-playing would appear on Survival of the Fittest the 1975 Hancock-produced Headhunters LP that features three of this set's four songs. This show, running just under 40 minutes, came shortly after Survival's release. All the elements herein make for a deep space-funk melting of the mind: McKnight, who would also feature on Hancock's Man-Child and Flood releases later that year, contributes lead vocals and lead guitar on opener "If You Got It, You'll Get It," which quickly takes the show into heady, cerebral territory, where much of "Daffy's Dance" resides—fast with funky bass riffs and adventurous saxophone soloing. The one non-album cut is the third, untitled track, which is led by Maupin's saxophone and a simple guitar lick in a mid-tempo jam. Bass player Paul Jackson gives a spoken introduction to closer "God Made Me Funky," which also features his gruff, soulful vocal fronting the cheery strut of the instrumentation.
The Headhunters would go on to record 1977's Straight from the Gate, and later reunited in 1998 with keyboards from both Hancock and Billy Childs on Return of the Headhunters! Jackson and percussionist Bill Summers also featured in a revised Headhunters lineup for 2003's Evolution Revolution. Hancock continues to record and perform, most recently releasing River: The Joni Letters in 2007.