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  • Jonathan Widran

JAMES HENRY, "Watermelon Man (Radio Remix)"

With one of the most identifiable, infectiously exuberant horn and piano riffs in contemporary jazz history, Herbie Hancock’s iconic 1962 composition “Watermelon Man” has been recorded over 200 times – including a well known hit version by Mongo Santamaria and a later funked-up twist by the composer himself. Just in time for its 60th year anniversary, the song everyone loves to jam to finds itself hitting the airwaves afresh in the wildly adventurous and imaginative soundscape of James Henry, a multi-talented, three time Grammy nominated percussionist, producer, film composer and leader of the Bay Area’s popular Hands on Fire Band.

The newly released Radio Mix blasts forth with 3 plus minutes of unbridled, exotic joy, launching with trilled vocal whoops, a seductive timbale groove by the legendary Pete Escovedo and a touch of bluesy keys before the sizzling horn vamp kicks in, accompanied by celebratory vocal harmonies and a dashing trumpet riff. A minute in, as the sizzling horn section begins to rise and throb anew, we get to the most colorful part of the boisterous arrangement, Bob Crawford’s sparkling, high octane Latin spiced piano solo – which romps over the irrepressibly exotic percussive flow.

As the seamless, dynamic ensemble keep the fiesta vibe going, the chant-along vocals Henry and legendary songwriter, producer and artist Narada Michael Walden heat up, turning helping this take on “Watermelon Man” from a transcendent cover version into a true anthem of our time, collectively capturing the feeling of toe tapping, shout out loud freedom as we emerge from the difficult year plus of pandemic and lockdown.

Purchase "Watermelon Man (Radio Mix)" here:


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