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Milestone Profiles: Joe Henderson

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Album Review

Tenor giant Joe Henderson worked with Milestone Records for eight years. While he is best remembered for his Blue Note period, Henderson issued some truly great recordings for Milestone. His volume in the label's Milestone Profiles series is one of the best in the bunch. While fans can argue endlessly about what to include or leave off in a best-of series, it's difficult to argue Nick Phillips' choices. Arranged aesthetically — more like a Henderson mix — rather than chronologically, the music skips back and forth across his career. There are the tough, bluesy, funky numbers like his "Mamacita" with Grachan Moncur, Louis Hayes, Kenny Barron, and Ron Carter, as well as his stunning "Black Narcissus" with Herbie Hancock, Carter, and Jack DeJohnette. Hancock's electric piano is a deeply atmospheric instrument, full of shimmering light and shadow, as Henderson plays some of the sweetest, most lyrical, and most gentle tenor of his long professional career. His collaboration with Japanese jazz musicians is heard on the burning "Out 'N' In." Another stellar moment in this collection of so many of them is "Black Is the Color (Of My True Love's Mind)," where he takes the John Jacob Niles folk tune and reinvents it harmonically with guitarist George Wadenius, pianist George Cables, (electric piano), bassist Dave Holland, Airto, and DeJohnette playing not only drums but a second electric piano. A tune that walks on the edge of "out," it is nonetheless a melodic dream of improvisation and close listening. His knotty, humorous, and butt funky "Recorda Me," is re-presented here as "No Me Esqueça," with Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Cables (again on electric piano) with Curtis Fuller and Pete Yellen. Henderson was one of those players who excelled in any setting — electric, acoustic, bop, out, soul — he firmly inhabited them all. This set is fine and argumentative proof not only for the saxophonist and bandleader, but also for Joe Henderson the composer. There is a bonus disc included here that highlights other artists in the profile series, but that's just a bonus. Fantastic.


Born: April 24, 1937 in Lima, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Joe Henderson is proof that jazz can sell without watering down the music; it just takes creative marketing. Although his sound and style were virtually unchanged from the mid-'60s, Joe Henderson's signing with Verve in 1992 was treated as a major news event by the label (even though he had already recorded many memorable sessions for other companies). His Verve recordings had easy-to-market themes (tributes to Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim) and, as a result, he became a...
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Milestone Profiles: Joe Henderson, Joe Henderson
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