Watermelon Man (composition)

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Watermelon Man (composition)_table_infobox_0

"Watermelon Man"Watermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_0_0
Instrumental by Herbie HancockWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_1_0
from the album Takin' OffWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_2_0
ReleasedWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_3_0 1962Watermelon Man (composition)_cell_0_3_1
GenreWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_4_0 Hard bopWatermelon Man (composition)_cell_0_4_1
LengthWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_5_0 7:09Watermelon Man (composition)_cell_0_5_1
LabelWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_6_0 Blue NoteWatermelon Man (composition)_cell_0_6_1
Composer(s)Watermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_7_0 Herbie HancockWatermelon Man (composition)_cell_0_7_1
Producer(s)Watermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_0_8_0 Alfred LionWatermelon Man (composition)_cell_0_8_1

"Watermelon Man" is a jazz standard written by Herbie Hancock for his debut album, Takin' Off (1962). Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_0

Hancock's first version was released as a grooving hard bop record, and featured improvisations by Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_1

A single reached the Top 100 of the pop chart. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_2

Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaría released the tune as a Latin pop single and it became a surprise hit, reaching No. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_3

10 on the pop chart. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_4

Santamaría's recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_5

Hancock radically re-worked the tune, combining elements of funk, for the album Head Hunters (1973). Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_6

Takin' Off Watermelon Man (composition)_section_0

Hancock wrote the piece to help sell his debut album as a leader, Takin' Off (1962), on Blue Note Records; it was the first piece of music he had ever composed with a commercial goal in mind. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_7

The popularity of the piece, due primarily to Mongo Santamaría, paid Hancock's bills for five or six years. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_8

Hancock did not feel the composition was a sellout however, describing that structurally, it was one of his strongest pieces due to its almost mathematical balance. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_9

The form is a sixteen bar blues. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_10

Recalling the piece, Hancock said, "I remember the cry of the watermelon man making the rounds through the back streets and alleys of Chicago. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_11

The wheels of his wagon beat out the rhythm on the cobblestones." Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_12

The tune, based on a bluesy piano riff, drew on elements of R&B, soul jazz and bebop, all combined into a pop hook. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_13

Hancock joined bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins in the rhythm section, with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Dexter Gordon on tenor saxophone. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_14

Hancock's chordal work draws from the gospel tradition, while he builds his solo on repeated riffs and trilled figures. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_15

Mongo Santamaría Watermelon Man (composition)_section_1

Hancock filled in for pianist Chick Corea in Mongo Santamaría's band one weekend at a nightclub in The Bronx when Corea gave notice that he was leaving. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_16

Hancock played the tune for Santamaría at friend Donald Byrd's urging. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_17

Santamaría started accompanying him on his congas, then his band joined in, and the small audience slowly got up from their tables and started dancing, laughing and having a great time. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_18

Santamaría later asked Hancock if he could record the tune. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_19

On December 17, 1962, Mongo Santamaría recorded a three-minute version, suitable for radio, where he joined timbalero Francisco "Kako" Baster in a cha-cha beat, while drummer Ray Lucas performed a backbeat. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_20

Santamaría included the track on his album Watermelon Man (1962). Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_21

Santamaría's recording is sometimes considered the beginning of Latin boogaloo, a fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with those of R&B. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_22

With the enthusiasm of record producer Orrin Keepnews, the band re-recorded the song and released it as a single under Battle Records (record label). Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_23

The single reached number 10 on Billboard in 1963. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_24

Chart performance Watermelon Man (composition)_section_2

Watermelon Man (composition)_table_general_1

Chart (1963)Watermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_1_0_0 Peak

positionWatermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_1_0_1

US Billboard Hot 100Watermelon Man (composition)_header_cell_1_1_0 10Watermelon Man (composition)_cell_1_1_1

Head Hunters Watermelon Man (composition)_section_3

Hancock re-recorded the tune for Head Hunters (1973), combining synthesizers with a Sly Stone and James Brown funk influence, adding an eight-bar section. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_25

Hancock described his composition "Chameleon", also from Head Hunters, to Down Beat magazine in 1979: "In the popular forms of funk, which I've been trying to get into, the attention is on the rhythmic interplay between different instruments. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_26

The part the Clavinet plays has to fit with the part the drums play and the line the bass plays and the line that the guitar plays. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_27

It's almost like African drummers where seven drummers play different parts"; "Watermelon Man" shares a similar construction. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_28

A live version was released on the double LP Flood (1975), recorded in Japan. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_29

On the intro and outro of the tune, percussionist Bill Summers blows into beer bottles imitating hindewhu, a style of singing/whistle-playing found in Pygmy music of Central Africa. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_30

Hancock and Summers were struck by the sound, which they heard on the ethnomusicology LP, The Music of the Ba-Benzélé Pygmies (1966), by Simha Arom and Geneviève Taurelle. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_31

This version was often featured on The Weather Channel's Local on the 8s segments. Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_32

Other versions Watermelon Man (composition)_section_4

The tune is a jazz standard and has been recorded over two hundred times: Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_33

Watermelon Man (composition)_unordered_list_0

Samples Watermelon Man (composition)_section_5

Hancock's recording has been sampled in: Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_34

Watermelon Man (composition)_unordered_list_1

Personnel Watermelon Man (composition)_section_6

Takin' Off version: Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_35

Watermelon Man (composition)_unordered_list_2

  • Herbie Hancock – pianoWatermelon Man (composition)_item_2_7
  • Dexter Gordon – tenor saxophoneWatermelon Man (composition)_item_2_8
  • Billy Higgins – drums, percussionWatermelon Man (composition)_item_2_9
  • Freddie Hubbard – trumpetWatermelon Man (composition)_item_2_10
  • Butch Warren – double bassWatermelon Man (composition)_item_2_11

Head Hunters version: Watermelon Man (composition)_sentence_36

Watermelon Man (composition)_unordered_list_3

  • Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes, clavinet, synthesizerWatermelon Man (composition)_item_3_12
  • Bennie Maupin – soprano saxophoneWatermelon Man (composition)_item_3_13
  • Bill Summers – percussion, beer bottle, hindewhuWatermelon Man (composition)_item_3_14
  • Harvey Mason – drumsWatermelon Man (composition)_item_3_15
  • Paul Jackson – bass guitarWatermelon Man (composition)_item_3_16


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watermelon Man (composition).