MTH-V: Herbie’s “Actual Proof”

The weekly video series/curation is back again after a lengthy hiatus. And back with a bang.

This is the first time I’ve explicitly featured Herbie Hancock in this series, though he’s come up on occasion (you can see him with Michael Brecker here). Below is one of my favorite songs of his, “Actual Proof,” which was originally released on 1974’s Thrust. (It’s my favorite of the Headhunters albums.) Herbie has long been one of my all-time favorite musicians. Even though he’ll be 73 next month, he remains one of the most forward-thinking figures in music of any genre, and he’s always progressing and experimenting. Attempting a brief career overview here is silly, but suffice it to say he’s just about done it all. From his groundbreaking early work with Miles (both acoustic and electric), to his various funk explorations, to crossover success with “Rockit” and later a Grammy for Album of the Year for a wonderfully original Joni Mitchell tribute, to his exploring the ends of both jazz and pop music, he’s a force to be reckoned with. (And to top it off, he seems to be a sweetheart by all accounts.) I have about twenty of his solo albums – which barely scratches the surface! – as well as just about everything he did with Miles. It’s such an eclectic collection, as just about everything he does is great. I’ve seen him in concert four times (five if you count an interview in which he played a couple tunes), and he blew me away each time in a different capacity. (One performance included a 55-minute “Dauphin Dance” that was from another planet…)

The band in the below video is a slightly amended version of his Headhunter’s ’05 band that was assembled for his featured set at Bonnaroo 2005. (I attended Bonnaroo ’05, and the Headhunters set remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen of any style.) This particular lineup played later that year, with this performance taking place in Tokyo. The personnel features many powerhouses – most of which are well-known bandleaders in their own right:

Herbie Hancock – piano
Terri Lyne Carrington – drums
Roy Hargrove – trumpet
Munyungo Jackson – percussion
Lionel Loueke – guitar
Marcus Miller – bass
Wah Wah Watson – guitar

(Simply trade John Mayer for Watson and add Kenny Garrett and you have the lineup I saw at Bonnaroo…)

This is a great rendition of Herbie classic. Hancock, Hargrove, and Loueke all get some solo space, and the unparalleled rhythm section of Carrington/Miller/Jackson/Watson holds the groove down while weaving in and out of various feels. Just ignore Hargrove’s early entrance on the head. 🙂

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