Jazz at 100 Hour 76: Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson may have been the most significant tenor saxophonist to emerge in the 1960s. Gary Giddins wrote that he is “…an irresistibly lucid player, whose adroitness in conjuring stark and swirling riffs contributed immeasurably to two of the most durable jazz hits of the ’60s, Horace Silver’s ‘Song for My Father’ and Lee Morgan’s ‘The Sidewinder.’” In addition to those tunes, in previous programs in this series, we have also heard Kenny Dorham’s ‘Blue Bossa’ from Henderson’s first release Page One, his own composition ‘Caribbean Fire Dance’ from his Mode For Joe release and two tunes from Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure. In this hour of Jazz at 100, we will continue to explore Henderson’s solo work and his role as a valued sideman, mining the seams between hard bop and the avant-garde as the 1960s progressed.

Joe Henderson, Page One.
“One of the last great tenormen of the original hard-bop generation, who it’s hard to imagine not in the middle of some grand, involved solo, Henderson was a thematic musician, working his way round the structure of a composition with methodical intensity, but he was also a masterful licks player, with a seemingly limitless stock of phrases that he could turn to advantage in any post-bop setting; this gave his best improvisations a balance of surprise, immediacy and coherence few other saxophonists could match. His lovely tone, which combines softness and a harsh plangency in a similar way, is another pleasing aspect of his music. Page One was his first date as a leader, and it still stands as one of the most popular Blue Notes of the early ’60s. Henderson had not long since arrived in New York after being discharged from the army, and this six-theme set is very much the work of a new star on the scene. ‘Recorda-Me’, whose Latinate lilt has made it a staple blowing vehicle for hard-bop bands, had its debut here… Everything here, even the throwaway blues ‘Homestretch’ is impressively handled.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Recorda-Me. Joe Henderson Quintet
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, McCoy Tyner-p, Butch Warren-b, Pete LaRoca-d). From Page One. 6/3/1963
Composed by Joe Henderson.

Homestretch. Joe Henderson Quintet
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, McCoy Tyner-p, Butch Warren-b, Pete LaRoca-d). From Page One. 6/3/1963
Composed by Joe Henderson.

Joe Henderson, Inner Urge.
Norman Weinstein describes Henderson’s fourth solo release, Inner Urge as “Joe Henderson’s most emotionally urgent album” and suggests that it might be “the ultimate showcase of his distinguished career.” He writes that “The deference to Coltrane is obvious: pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones are on board on every selection, although shifting their styles to mesh with Henderson. The deference to [Stan] Getz is more subtle, coming clear on Henderson’s stingingly lyric ballad feature, ‘You Know I Care,’ and his melodic recasting of Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day.’ Weaving a path between Coltrane’s fiery sermonizing and Getz’s singable romanticism, Henderson displays a wholly individual sense of phrasing that alternates molten passionate engagement with cool reflection… ‘El Barrio’ digs as deeply into the Latin mode as Henderson ever went, again emphasizing a nearly strangulated, gruff sax sound interrupted by beautifully full tones. The empathy with Tyner and Jones is palpable throughout the album. They’re egging him on, but oh so gently, giving Henderson tons of space to sink or swim in… The album seems like an apotheosis of hard bop, a ruthlessly probing amplification of a typical, hard-blowing, Blue Note bop session, pushing bop formulas as far as they could be pushed. [It is] not only one of the best dozen Blue Note sessions ever released, [but] one of the major statements of jazz in the ’60s… An absolutely essential listen and a major masterpiece.”

You Know I Care. Joe Henderson Quartet
(Joe Henderson-ts, McCoy Tyner-p, Bob Cranshaw-b, Elvin Jones-d). From Inner Urge. 11/30/1964
Composed by Duke Pearson.

El Barrio. Joe Henderson Quartet
(Joe Henderson-ts, McCoy Tyner-p, Bob Cranshaw-b, Elvin Jones-d). From Inner Urge. 11/30/1964
Composed by Manny Albem.

Joe Henderson with Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner & Larry Young.
Throughout his career, Joe Henderson was in demand as a sideman and recorded frequently with the best players around, despite having his own regular solo releases.

The Kicker wasn’t made available until 1999. Even if Hutcherson’s standing was thought to be marginal, the presence of Joe Henderson should have been enough to see this fine, imaginative session into the light of day. The saxophonist is the main composer… [His] ‘Kicker’ and ‘Step Lightly’ are cracking tunes and blistering performances from all concerned. Hutcherson’s fleet, ringing lines have rarely sounded more buoyant and persuasive…” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

The Kicker. Bobby Hutcherson Sextet
(Joe Henderson-ts, Bobby Hutcherson-vib, Duke Pearson-p, Grant Green-g, Bob Cranshaw-b, Al Harewood-d). From The Kicker. 12/29/1963
Composed by Joe Henderson.

“Larry Young was the first Hammond player to shake off the pervasive influence of Jimmy Smith and begin the assimilation of John Coltrane’s harmonics to the disputed border territory between jazz and nascent rock… Unity is a modern jazz masterpiece, whipped along by Jones’s ferocious drumming and Henderson’s meaty tenor” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

If. Larry Young Quartet
(Woody Shaw-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, Larry Young-org, Elvin Jones-d). From Unity. 11/10/1965
Composed by Joe Henderson.

“[Joe Henderson] was the great saxophone-playing linker of bop and free-jazz, even more than Coltrane. He had a tonal range similar to Coltrane’s in its guttural urgency, ranging in this album’s ‘Passion Dance’ from a classic, dapper tenor richness to a pinched shrieking sound. Yet it was his own sound, with the grease of R&B players; he connected notes with a rubbery, portamento slide. He took his time; he sounded more joyful than Coltrane, as if he had less to lose. His sound was less self-conscious, happy to be a work in progress.” – Ben Ratliff.

Passion Dance. McCoy Tyner Quartet
(Joe Henderson-ts, McCoy Tyner-p, Ron Carter-b, Elvin Jones-d). From The Real McCoy. 4/21/1967
Composed by McCoy Tyner.

“Although he appeared on some of the biggest-selling recordings in the history of the Blue Note label (Song for My Father, The Sidewinder), Henderson never became mesmerized, as did many of his contemporaries, by the commercial potential of soul and funk-oriented music.” – Ted Gioia

Joe Henderson recorded a series of records for Milestone through the 1970s, made a major record The State of The Tenor for Blue Note in the 80s and finished his career with an outstanding series of releases on Verve including tributes to Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He recorded his version of Porgy and Bess in 1997, made one more record with Terrence Blanchard in 1998 and died in 2001.

Miles Davis, through his adoption of modal music, participated in the gradual liberation that resulted in the free music of the jazz avant-garde. Yet, although he continued to explore broadly, he was public in his discomfort with free jazz. Despite this reluctance, the new quintet that he began to build in 1963 resulted in the freest music of his career and became legendary as his Second Great Quintet. Miles Davis and The Second Great Quintet, in the next hour of Jazz at 100.

Recordings.
Joe Henderson. Page One. Blue Note BLP 4140
Joe Henderson. Inner Urge. Blue Note BLP 4189
Bobby Hutcherson. The Kicker. Blue Note CDP 7243 5 21437-2
Larry Young. Unity. Blue Note BLP 4221
McCoy Tyner. The Real McCoy. Blue Note BLP 4264

Resources.
Giddins, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 70. Joe Henderson (Tributes)
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Joe Henderson. Page One
Bobby Hutcherson. The Kicker
Larry Young. Unity
McCoy Tyner. The Real McCoy
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 78. McCoy Tyner, The Real McCoy (1967)
Weinstein, Norman. “Joe Henderson: Inner Urge.” All About Jazz. 7/2/2004. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/inner-urge-joe-henderson-blue-note-records-review-by-norman-weinstein.php

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