I’ve mentioned before that I love the work of Joe Henderson, whether it’s his hard-swinging work on Blue Note and Verve or his eclectic, electric endeavors on the Milestone label.
1969’s Power to the People can be seen as a turning point in Joe’s oeuvre. His playing retained the spirituality and urgency that was always a part of his sound, but his message became more overtly political, and his compositions and instrumentation took on more aspects of the Afrocentric movement that blossomed in the early 70s. At that time many jazz musicians found ways to challenge the hegemony of “Eurocentric” musical theory by incorporating more complicated African or Latin rhythms and shaking up standard functional harmony with more open modal tonalities and “free” playing.
The program on this album finds the band straddling both old and new conceptions. More traditional tunes like Lazy Afternoon and Isotope stand alongside pulsing modal vamps like Afro-Centric and the title track posted here. The record even closes with a freeform piece by the trio of Joe, Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette. These two are the perfect rhythm pair for this record, pushing the songs to interesting places without losing the mood or stealing the spotlight. And of course the mood and color of the album owe a huge debt to the electric piano work of Herbie Hancock, whose sextet Joe was working with at the time.