Tag Archives: Joe Henderson

If You’re Not Part of the Solution…Joe Henderson Quintet

It is high barbecue season here in South London; indeed I’m leaving to attend one shortly. What’s the weather like? Rain is likely, of course, although it will almost inevitably be followed by blistering heat during the working week that is only hours away.

Let’s go somewhere else. To a place where warm nights give way to warmer and far sunnier days. By the seaside where the surf is always up. What we need next to the beach is one of the great Jazz rooms and one of the finest tenor saxophonists on the stand with a new and exciting band. A snap of the fingers takes us to California. To Hermosa Beach. To The Lighthouse. Joe Henderson is playing a set which ranges from his songbook classics through to a lengthy slab of jazz funk. We need somewhere to dance. Another snap of the fingers and just through the door there’s a pier (actually we’ll skip that bit as apparently it has been done recently at this very location in the film La La Land).

Hermosa Beach lies just south of Los Angeles Airport on a west facing strip of coastline that sweeps north via Venice Beach, Santa Monica towards Malibu, sort of like Morecambe Bay perhaps although Morecambe lacks a distant Hollywood sign?

Enough! Let’s get back to the music on the turntable. Despite most of the albums I look at here having been ripped from CDs, vinyl is what we’ve got today. It is a UK pressing of a Milestone album which has been licensed to Ace and the sound is good without being amazing. I grade my copy of the record as being in VG+ condition with the cover also weighing in as VG+ and I’m very pleased to have it.

By 1970 Joe Henderson had contributed to over 30 classic Blue Note sessions as a sideman and had led five of his own great recordings for the label. In 1967 he signed a recording deal with Orrin Keepnews at Milestone Records which was to result in a dozen titles bearing his name eventually being issued.

This album was the fourth of these. In late September 1970 Henderson played a short residency at the famous Lighthouse Cafe at Hermosa Beach in California. Label boss Keepnews was excited by the new band that Henderson had assembled that summer and he had a hunch that they would work particularly well as a live unit. Arrangements were made to record the gigs and the resulting album captures a strong set.

A track entitled Caribbean Fire Dance has got to be lively and this take on it features flames aplenty. Henderson and Woody Shaw spark off the lively and percussive rhythm section which fans up a conflagration. Cables on electric piano offers up a vibes-like sound reminiscent of Bobby Hutcherson. It sounds great on record and must have been splendid live.

‘Round Midnight starts with a pensive exploration of the tune from Henderson’s tenor over a light reverberating accompaniment from the electric piano. Henderson then breaks out into double time Hard Bop territory with Ron McClure racing up and down the fretboard of his bass as he keeps pace with the leader during this middle section. After a brief piano and bass duet Henderson slows the tempo and brings the track to a calm and delicate conclusion during which the appreciative audience is completely silent. Cables and Shaw were to later accompany Dexter Gordon on another version of this standard when he performed at The Village Vanguard in December 1976.

Cedar Walton’s Mode For Joe has long been a personal favourite. Henderson’s long solo is a delight to listen to on this piece which brings the first side of the album to a close.

The origin of name of the title track, If You’re Not Part of The Solution, You’re Part of The Problem is a quotation from Eldridge Cleaver and makes passing reference to Henderson’s commitment to civil rights and equality. It is a lengthy jazz funk workout in a style that would have sounded up to date at the time of release but which was soon imitated by lesser talents, though it still sounds engaging. Ron McClure delivers a solid electric bass line throughout. It is a treat to hear and you can listen to it here courtesy of YouTube:-

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

There’s a reading of his mentor, Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa on which Henderson’s tenor solo is tuneful and confines itself to the conventional range of the instrument before Woody Shaw takes a turn.

The very short Closing Theme runs for 47 seconds and does what it says, before the band are name checked and receive due applause.

If You’re Not Part of the Solution… is well worth tracking down if only to trace the continuing development of a great musician. It is a very a different recording to that made by the acoustic trio featured on the two excellent State of The Tenor live albums from the mid-1980’s. I’m not yet familiar with the other Milestone recordings although, over time, I will make it my business to track them down and report back here.

Henderson relocated to the West Coast in the early 1970’s, where he combined recording and live performance with teaching. Sadly, he passed away aged 64 in 2001. I never got to see him live and that is something that I regret. However, the live recordings remain and provide an opportunity to appreciate his playing. Other than learning of a brief period spent with Earth, Wind and Fire there is little readily available on the net concerning Henderson’s life in the 1970’s. However, after a search on Google Scholar an article in a journal’ The Black Perspective on Music (Vol 5, No. 1. Spring 1977) by Frank Kofsky suggested that in the mid-70’s he was probably playing less than 10 gigs a year in the San Francisco area and largely living on royalty payments, studio work and a small income from academic activities. A later triumphant return to the spotlight was to come in the 1980’s but I will leave that for another day.

The band etc.:- Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone); Woody Shaw (trumpet & flugelhorn); George Cables (electric piano); Ron McClure (bass & electric bass track 4); Lenny White (drums); Tony Waters (percussion). Recorded live September 25, 25 & 26 1970 at The Lighthouse Cafe, Hermosa Beach, California. Produced by: Orrin Keepnews. Recording Engineer: Bernie Grundman. Photographs: Philip Melnick. Design: John Murello. Issued in 1970: Fantasy Records Milestone MX 9028.

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Blue Spirits: Freddie Hubbard

Blue Spirits Freddie Hubbard

Recorded over two sessions in early 1965 and on CD supplemented by a further two tracks from early 1966, Blue Spirits was Freddie Hubbard’s last studio release on Blue Note and it wasn’t an album that I had come across very often in the shops. However, some good came out of a trip to a football match in Manchester, when I picked this up at Vinyl Exchange.

It then languished unplayed and neglected in my workbag until Christmas. This was a mistake as it is a very fine album. Without further ado, take a listen to the opening track, Soul Surge from YouTube, courtesy of Rogerjazzfan.

To play touch or click on the arrow

There’s a division in fans of Blue Note between those who enjoy Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder and those who speak dismissively of the number of similar tracks that opened subsequent albums by a host of other artists in the hope that they could replicate its success. Soul Surge is one of those tracks, but it is a wonderful piece of music in its own right. Indeed it is one of those pieces that should probably have gained standard’ status but never quite made it. Harold Mabern on piano and Joe Henderson make their mark and conga drummer, Big Black combines delightfully with bassist Larry Ridley.

The same lineup play on the fourth track, Cunga Black. This has a Latin feel and Hubbard stated that he was looking for a dark sound, although I wouldn’t characterise it with that quality.

The second session from late February 1965 yielded the title track, Blue Spirits, which seems to open like a subdued version of Silent Night, before lightening up with the introduction of James Spaulding on flute.

Outer Forces strikes on with a lively feel and pace, while Jodo (‘pure land’ in Japanese) also swings along in a funky way. All fit well with the two tracks from earlier in the month, despite a change of rhythm section and tenor saxophonist with Hank Mobley sitting in here.

The original vinyl release was made up of the five tracks above. However the CD offers a further two tracks from a session in early March 1966, where Joe Henderson returns on tenor, with pianist, Herbie Hancock and Elvin Jones, joined by Reggie Workman on bass and the lesser known Hosea Taylor (alto sax and bassoon). The Melting Pot is more of a modal piece than its predecessors from the previous year. True Colors has a freer, more experimental feel, especially in the solos, and interesting use is made of Hancock’s celeste and it is very different from the rest of the CD. However, both tracks retain a strong sense of cohesion and, in the playing is restrained and confined to the normal range of each instrument.

Bob Blumenthal’s notes accompanying the RVG CD release state: ‘While often overlooked, Blue Spirits is one of the greatest albums in Freddie Hubbard’s voluminous discography.’
It is an album that I’m enjoying very much and one on which the talents of an array of great Blue Note artists are deployed in a wondrous way. All in all, yet another fantastic Blue Note set that is well worth tracking down.

The band etc:-
19 February 1965: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto sax & flute); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Kiane Zawadi (euphonium); Harold Mabern (piano); Larry Ridley (bass); Clifford Jarvis (drums); Big Black (congas). On: Soul Surge & Cunga Black (tracks 1 & 4)
26 February 1965: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto sax & flute); Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Kiane Zawadi (euphonium); McCoy Tyner (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Pete La Roca (drums). On: Blue Spirits, Outer Forces, Jodo (tracks 2-5)
5 March 1966: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Hosea Taylor (alto sax & bassoon); Herbie Hancock (piano, celeste); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums). On: The Melting Pot, True Colors (tracks 6-7)
Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 19, 26 February and 5 March 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Design Reid Miles. Tracks 1-5 Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84196


The downwithit playlist: Twenty great tracks for you to listen to

The downwithit playlist is a list of 20 YouTube track selections that I have used to give readers a taste of the albums that I have looked at here on downwithit. They are highlighted and form part of a full post.

They are gathered together here for your further pleasure. Click on the burnt orange title to link directly to YouTube and listen.

If you would like to read my full post for the album, each one is available to read here on downwithit

The following six tracks should open on a tablet or mobile device and a computer:-

Tommy Chase: Grove Merchant: Killer Joe
Abdullah Ibrahim: Mannenberg
Pharoah Sanders: Africa: You’ve Got To Have Freedom
The Crusaders: Hollywood: Hollywood
Don Wilkerson: Preach Brother: Camp Meetin’
John Jenkins: John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell: Sharon

The following fourteen tracks should open on a computer, but will not open on a tablet or mobile device:-

Blue Mitchell: Down With It. Hi-Heel Sneakers
John Coltrane: Blue Train: Blue Train
Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver: Camouflage
Horace Parlan: Movin’ n Groovin’: On Green Dolphin Street
Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe: Mode For Joe
Johnny Griffin: The Big Soul Band: Wade In The Water
Freddie Roach: Brown Sugar: Brown Sugar
Fred Jackson: Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’: Southern Exposure
Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder: The Sidewinder
Grover Washington: All The King’s Horses: Lean On Me
Kenny Dorham: Una Mas: Una Mas
Jimmy Smith: Home Cookin’: See See Rider
Freddie Roach: The Soul Book: One Track Mind
Kenny Burrell: Out Of This World: Montono Blues


The Sidewinder: Lee Morgan

The Sidewinder is an album which polarises opinions. The title track is an extended jazz soul number which inspired numerous imitations. It also set a mould for other albums within the Blue Note stable and beyond. Success resulted in some damning it with faint praise and others despising its success. Even Lee Morgan himself came to view it as something of a burden that he sometimes felt disinclined to visit, as he apparently recorded it as a filler track.

Sidewinder cover

Lee Morgan was a young talent who got his first break with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and who was already recording with Blue Note when he was 18 years old. In 1957 he played with Hank Mobley and on John Coltrane’s classic Blue Train session. In 1957 he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

During his period with The Jazz Messengers, Morgan’s increasing dependency on heroin led to his reliability being severely compromised and by the time of The Sidewinder session in 1963 his career was in decline. However, despite an initial pressing of under 5000 copies The Sidewinder became Blue Note’s biggest immediate seller and Lee Morgan was back.

The tune was used without permission in Chrysler Cars TV commercials before Blue Note’s lawyers intervened and put a stop to that and it later became an anthem of the 1980’s jazz dance scene. Have a listen courtesy of MusicForYourFunk on YouTube.

I enjoy listening to it and the rest of the album is well worth hearing too. Joe Henderson, a Blue Note session regular at the end of 1963, is in action on tenor saxophone while Barry Harris contributes piano steeped in soul. Totem Pole is so-named because the head of the tune has a short phrase in which trumpet and tenor sax seamlessly alternate notes within a musical bar. This was reminiscent of a native American totem pole in Lee Morgan’s mind as he recounted to Leonard Feather in what are informative sleeve notes filled with helpful insights. Given the eventual response to the album it was perhaps fortunate that Feather was onboard at the outset.

After the boogaloo beat of the title track, those wondering about the terpsichorean location of Gary’s Notebook, will learn from the sleeve notes that it is a fast jazz waltz. Apparently, Gary was a close friend of Lee Morgan’s, who is referred to in the interview linked to below. Boy, What a Night is both energetic and energising, a second fast blues waltz on the set with a solo by Joe henderson that I particularly enjoy. I’m less keen on Hocus Pocus, which sounds, to my ears like an improvisation on a Broadway show tune- a bit of a filler perhaps.

Lee Morgan was 25 years old when he recorded this session. There’s a fascinating interview with his former partner, Helen More, which can currently be found by following this link to the website of Jason Palmer (an eminent trumpeter and Professor of Jazz at the world renowned Berklee College in Boston).


As you may have read, Lee Morgan was killed by Helen More in February 1972, when their long term relationship turned very sour.

Lee Morgan played a significant part in Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Jazz and People’s Movement which fought for increased coverage of the music of black America mainly by direct action and disrupting live recordings of television programmes. The tactic achieved tangible results and led to Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp and others appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The band etc:- Lee Morgan (Trumpet); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Barry Harris (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Billy Higgins (drums). Recorded: On 21 December 1963. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4157.

I currently have two copies of The Sidewinder: a vinyl Blue Note DMM (Direct Metal Master) copy which I bought in the mid-80’s and which sounds somewhat lifeless on my system (especially the drums) and a CD copy from the RVG remaster series, which is preferable to listen to.

Just in case you are interested I have added this terpsichorean footnote (from www.streetswing.com). I never knew that the boogaloo and the shing-a-ling were essentially the same dance:-

The Boogaloo or Shing-A-Ling was a 1960’s freestyle Fad dance which kinda caught on with the public thru American Bandstand and gained momentum in the late 1960s. Originally, It was considered a Latin dance because of it’s Mambo patterns, but was used in the Blues and Rock and Roll as well. The Boogaloo replaced the popular Latin Pachanga dance in popularity. The dance basically means to do simple weird movements with your feet, hips and body (kinda like speaking in tongues, but in dancing .) It makes sense only to the dancer who is doing it at the moment.

It would seem form the above description that lots of us do the boogaloo without really knowing that our dancefloor efforts actually have a name!


Brown Sugar: Freddie Roach

FR Brown Sugarjpg

“It was raining as we arrived at the recording studio. A soft warm rain. Not enough to really bother anyone. Just enough to make the earth a darker brown and polish the streets to a high gloss.

The sounds of the nearby highway mixed with a steady dripping from the roof of the studio on a garbage can roof below. Providing a sort of natural set of drums. I stood in the rain listening. Bap…bap…du bap du…bap bap.”

So Freddie Roach begins the self-penned sleeve notes to his wonderful blues and soul centred fourth album for Blue Note. This set boasts a young Joe Henderson on tenor sax and leaves all in no doubt that this great reedsman knew how to play a low-down rhythm and blues lick when needed- especially on Brown Sugar, the opening track.

The Right Time is a slow simmering blues covered by Ray Charles and featuring more great saxophone from Joe Henderson, before it is time for Freddie to soar on his solo on Have You Ever Had The Blues?

I’m not sure about The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, a Quincy Jones track that verges on, or perhaps even steers headlong into the bland. Probably not the greatest opener to a side of music- even a b side! However, things look up with Next Time You See Me a fine blues which smoulders nicely without getting out of hand.

Then its the grand finale, a sultry blues, brushes on the drums and Joe Henderson laying down some lush, luxuriant sound on All Night Long, truly an exceptional soul ballad.

Its nearly Christmas, so don’t hesitate to seek out and purchase Brown Sugar, a further fine LP from the sadly neglected Freddie Roach. As for me, I’ve still to source and hear his last two Prestige titles and his final Blue Note recording All That’s Good which sounds a ‘bit different’ apparently.

I’m still seeking more info on Freddie Roach (see earlier postings). If you can contribute anything, please feel free to let us hear more below.

The band etc:- Freddie Roach (Hammond organ); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Eddie Wright (guitar); Clarence Johnson (drums). Recorded: On a rainy night in March 1964 (18-19 March). Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Sleeve Notes: Freddie Roach. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4168.

My copy of Brown Sugar is an original Blue Note mono first pressing bought earlier this year from the USA. It was pitched to the ebay auction as being in near mint condition- but that stretches matters somewhat and in reality it should be rightly graded as VG+ though the cover is in fine nick. Despite that it still sounds brilliant, as one would expect of a BN first pressing. Sorry about the ‘orrible badly lit cover photo by the way- I was in a hurry to get this out and will be aiming to do much better in 2014!


Una Mas: Kenny Dorham

Una Mas is another Blue Note treasure and one that I’ve been listening to for years, off and on. When he recorded this in 1963, Kenny Dorham was 39 and an established musician who had already released 15 albums as a leader. He’d recorded with most of the greats from the bebop era and beyond but for this session he turned to youth. It’s hard to believe that Tony Williams was only 17 when he played drums here and delivered the complexity of the title track, seemingly without difficulty. This was also the first session that featured Joe Henderson on tenor sax although at the age of 26 he was the second oldest in this company. Herbie Hancock was still only 22 but was making a name for himself as a relative newcomer on the New York jazz scene. Bassist Butch Warren was also in his early 20’s.

The title track which appears here from YouTube with thanks to 7lovejazz is a fine funky bossa nova based composition. Things were going so well that the track was allowed to run for over 15 minutes and was given the entire first side of the LP release. I don’t know if it is just me but I detect something of Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder– a track that also featured Joe Henderson. Its here- see what you think.

The aptly entitled Straight Ahead opens side 2. Kenny Dorham takes the first solo on this driving hard bop tune. The band are clearly loving it there’s some space for the drums, Joe Henderson’s solo is accompanied by soul clapping towards its end and Herbie Hancock gets some space to contribute.

The original LP closes with another great Latin influenced tune, Sao Paulo a tune which opens with a sense of anticipation and then hangs on.

The final number from the session was not part of the original LP and only appeared on CD many years later. If Ever I Would Leave You is a ‘show tune’ from Camelot. It was left off the original album as it didn’t fit with the adventurous nature of the first three tracks and it never will. It is very polite, very lounge and OK but lacking in fire.

So there you have it, Una Mas. A short Blue Note set at around 32 minutes for the original 3 track LP- but sometimes thats all that is needed.

The band etc:- Kenny Dorham (trumpet); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Herbie Hancock (piano); Butch Warren (bass); Anthony Williams (drums). Recorded 1 April 1963 by Rudy Van Gelder at Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Produced by Alfred Lion. Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photo: Reid Miles. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Released as BLP 4127.



Mode For Joe: Joe Henderson


Why should I bother with this:-  The track- Mode for Joe is wonderful.  Interesting line-up with vibes and trombone.  Amazing cover photography.  Branford Marsalis liked the album so much that he learned all of Joe Henderson’s solos by heart.  Challenging and varied; probably not recommended as an early addition to a new jazz collection- but it repays extended listening.

The band etc:- Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Bobby Hutcherson (vibes); Cedar Walton (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Joe Chambers(drums).  Recorded 27 January 1966.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather.  Cover photos: Francis Wolff.  Cover Design: Reid Miles.  Issued as Blue Note 4227.

The Music:-  Mode for Joe was recorded at the start of 1966 at a time of great change and dynamism, socially, politically and in jazz.  It represents Joe Henderson’s fifth and final Blue Note session as a leader in the 60’s, although he was to return with his excellent The State of The Tenor: Live at the Village Vanguard in 1985.  Written at a time when contemporaries were pushing deeply into free jazz, this one strains at the edges within clearly defined tunes.

It features an adventurous, non-standard lineup that extends to seven musicians, with vibes and trombone adding to the mix.   Some of the compositions will scare off the dinner jazz set as Henderson and Morgan veer towards free and expressive playing over complex rhythms.  Eight years earlier, Curtis Fuller had made a memorable contribution to the session which resulted in John Coltrane’s Blue Train and he is on fine form here too.

The opening track A Shade of Jade takes no prisoners with tenor sax and later trumpet delivering solos that sound like an urgent street corner dialogue of exaggerated points of view that the listener had better hear, or else!

The wonderful Mode For Joe is altogether more relaxed, a track of great beauty after an introduction to the tenor solo that verges on the sour.  Then we hear the vibes and trombone.  Pure sophistication.  I’ve Gilles Peterson (circa 1995) to thank for introducing me to this track.  Take a listen- what do you think of it?  (YouTube: courtesy of Andrew Jackson).


Black starts with a dramatic intro before heading off with a lively theme.  I probably would have sequenced this as the opening track for the album as it doesn’t frighten the horses.

Caribbean Fire Dance (YouTube: courtesy of 1blue1) has some great celebratory percussive rhythms driving things forward.  It is samba and more and a dancer could certainly make great use of it- must play it to a mate who is into salsa very soon (that’s you Pete).  Granted is straightforward hard bop while Free Wheelin’ closes the set with some delightful funk-tinged piano from Cedar Walton.


Leonard Feather provides the sleeve notes which are informative after he leaves behind his dig at Motown which was ruling the airwaves at the time.  He rejects “…the whanging guitars, adolescent lyrics and…massive accumulation of percussion” emanating from Detroit but then goes on to praise jazz alumni from Motor City, including Joe Henderson, Morgan and Curtis Fuller.  If you google Feather you will frequently find the term ‘acerbic’ in the articles you source but, because its nearly the weekend, I’m not going to be too hard on him here.

The cover:-  One of my all-time favorites.  I love the sequence of three photos of Joe Henderson: seemingly in conversation; contemplating and then taking a drag on his cigarette (sadly, Joe Henderson died of heart disease after suffering from emphysema in his final years).  Great portraiture fromFrancis Wolff though.

My copy of this album is on a CD which predates the 2003 digital remaster in the Rudy Van Gelder series, but which contains the alternative version of Black (also on the RVG collection).  CD’s of this great album cost from @£4.50 on Amazon, if you can put up with what the excellent London Jazz Collector calls ‘the evil silver disc’.  I would like a mint / near mint, vintage vinyl 1966 Blue Note first pressing-  but they seem to go for north of £90 at auction.