Tag Archives: Joe Henderson

Power to the People

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.

Power to the People

Power to the People

Miles Ahead

Coincidentally, the same day I posted Joe Henderson’s “Our Thing” I was asked to learn Joe’s arrangement of “Miles Ahead” for a gig.  This version can be found on the Verve album So Near, So Far.  Each of Joe’s albums for Verve featured the work of one composer, in this case Miles Davis.  Here’s the chart I wrote for the band:

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Joe’s quartet is squared by John Scofield, Dave Holland and Al Foster.  A decade later this same rhythm section collaborated with Joe Lovano as ScoLoHoFo (about whom more next week).

Our Thing

I can’t believe I’ve posted 25 times and haven’t mentioned Joe Henderson.  There’s not an album of his I don’t like, and his work as a sideman for Blue Note, Atlantic, CTI et al. is unparalleled.  Whether I’m listening to his early quintet work, his 70s electric period, or his later return to swinging standards, Joe’s distinctive style shines through.  This one is from his second album, recorded with veteran trumpeter Kenny Dorham and a cast of players just beginning their recording careers: Andrew Hill, Eddie Khan and Pete La Roca, who passed away just months ago.

Our Thing

Our Thing 2