Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, April 1964
Kenny Dorham (trumpet)
Joe Henderson (tenor sax)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
Richard Davis (bass)
Elvin Jones (drums)
Punjab; Serenity; Short Story; Brown's Town; In 'N Out
Joe Henderson was perhaps the least well acknowledged of the great saxophone players to emerge in the sixties. His influence, however, has been substantial. From 1963 - 67 he is the featured tenor sax player on some twenty albums for Blue Note that set a new standard in jazz, defined the future direction of the label and could all be argued for inclusion in any Top Jazz 100. Yet the catalogue released under his name as leader had been small and its availability has been patchy until very recently. As jazz suffered its crisis in popularity in the ‘seventies, many players including Joe Henderson had to find work elsewhere. If you had ever wondered why the brass section of “Blood Sweat and Tears” sounded so good it was because Joe Henderson played with them at this time.
Everything changed in the mid ‘eighties when the long awaited recognition that Joe Henderson deserved finally came when three Grammy winning albums with Verve (“Lush Life”, “So Near So Far” and “Double Rainbow”) reinvigorated his career. Since then it has been a case of looking back on all that he has achieved and wondering at how so much wonderful music making could have been neglected for so long. By the time of his death in 2001, the record had more or less been put straight with most of his classic recordings available for those who cared to look. However, to hear Joe Henderson, you have to look beyond albums titled under his name and also look at the albums on which he was a sideman. That list in itself could easily fill a quarter of any Top 100 jazz albums. Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” and “The Rumproller”, Kenny Dorham’s “Una Mass”, Larry Young’s “Unity”, Grant Green’s “Idle Moments” and “Am I Blue?”, McCoy Tyner's "The Real McCoy" and Bobby Hutcherson’s “Stick Up” and “The Kicker” are just a few examples.
He was born in 1937 in Lima, Ohio, which is fifty miles south of Toledo. He listened to Stan Getz and Charlie Parker while still at school before going to Wayne University, Detroit where he met Yusef Lateef, Cedar Walton and Donald Byrd. In Detroit, he studied saxophone at the Teal School of Music as well as flute and bass at Wayne. By the summer of 1962 he arrived in New York having completed a two year spell in the US Army during which he had toured worldwide entertaining the troops. As Kenny Dorham describes in his liner notes to Henderson’s “Page One”, "I was introduced to this bearded, goateed astronaut of the tenor sax...I suggested that we go down to see Dexter Gordon who was headlining at the Birdland Monday Night Jazz Jamboree....Dexter Gordon .....asked the young man if he'd like to play some.....minutes afterward, the musical astronaut was in the launching pad." Kenny Dorham (15 years Henderson's senior) was to become mentor and partner in a series of wonderful albums for Blue Note in which their outstanding partnership was developed.
Of the many Joe Henderson contenders for inclusion here (not just the mid eighties Verve releases or the classic Blue Notes “Page One”, “Inner Urge”, “Our Thing”, “Mode For Joe” or the two great early eighties albums with Chick Corea - “Relaxin’ at Carmarillo” and “Mirror Mirror”) the best is “In ‘N Out”. This has the beauty and the subtlety of the relationship with Kenny Dorham’s trumpet playing at its most developed and also has the expansion of musical horizons introduced by the inclusion of half of John Coltrane’s classic quartet – McCoy Tyner on piano and Elvin Jones on drums. It is a potent mix. It is not just that Joe Henderson responds so differently to John Coltrane but that he defines his own improvisional space so completely and with such originality. The quintet is completed by Richard Davis’ excellent bass playing. (Yes, he is the bass player on Van Morrison's seminal 'sixties album "Astral Weeks").
The three Henderson originals (the title track, “Punjab” and “Serenity”) are backed by two equally brilliant originals by Kenny Dorham (“Short Story” and “Brown’s Town”). This is great, inventive jazz.
Kenny Dorham is a key link here. He had played with and recorded with Charlie Parker in the later forties (see the 1948 and 1949 NYC "Royal Roost" sessions of the "Charlie Parker Quintet"). By the early sixties, his own career was beginning to run out of steam somewhat but he was keen to take the young Joe Henderson under his wing and help launch his career. Perhaps Kenny Dorham heard that echo in Joe Henderson's playing of Charlie Parker; perhaps this was a way of passing on the spark of that earlier generation's inspiration to a new generation?
Star Rating *****
To preview and download music by Joe Henderson at iTunes:
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"In 'N Out"
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Blue Note DVD featuring Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock and more:
"One Night With Blue Note"
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