Chameleon (composition)

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"Chameleon" is a 1974 jazz standard composed by Herbie Hancock in collaboration with Bennie Maupin, Paul Jackson and Harvey Mason[1], all of whom also performed the original 15:44 full-length version on the 1973 landmark album Head Hunters featuring solos by Hancock and Maupin. The 9:41 edit omits the out-of-tune segment, features a new bassline added in at around 6:40 and new instruments added in post-production.

The song has a characteristic bass line and is set to a funk beat. For the most part, the song is built entirely on a two-chord[2] vamp: a I-IV in B Dorian (Bm7 and E7). The use of guitar as melody-percussion became one of jazz's defining moments.

Colloquial Information[edit]

The piece is one of the most widely recognized jazz standards, and has become standard repertoire in most small jazz ensembles. It has been performed by many notable artists, including Maceo Parker, Buddy Rich, Stanley Jordan, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Maynard Ferguson, Eddie Jefferson, Gov't Mule, Jazz Warriors, Monty Alexander with Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare, Michał Urbaniak, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, James Morrison, The Stavertones, The James Bowers Jazz Collective, Vivid Vacuum, Four o'clock Tuesday, Kâmil Sextette, The Bitter End All Star Jam Band, The Boat Exclusion, The Music Circle (a 1970s Barbados spouge version) and many others.

The piece's signature 12-note bass line was played by Hancock on an ARP Odyssey[3] [4], as was one of the keyboard solos. The other keyboard solo was played on a Fender/Rhodes piano.

Samples Used[edit]


  1. ^ "Jaime David Vazquez Bass Lines: Herbie Hancock - "Chameleon" vs "Watermelon Man" - Bass Musician Magazine, The Face of Bass". Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  2. ^ "Deconstructing the bassline in Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon"". The Ethan Hein Blog. 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  3. ^ synthhead (2015-04-21). "The Iconic Sounds Of Synthesis: Herbie Hancock's Chameleon Bassline". Synthtopia. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  4. ^ "The Art of Synth Soloing: Mr. Hands Himself, Herbie Hancock". KeyboardMag. Retrieved 2018-08-13.