Joe Henderson: Power To the People (1969)
The late sixties were an exciting time for jazz, although not a lucrative one. Faced with a declining market share due to the popularity of rock music, jazz musicians were forced to find an audience by pursuing new avenues in composition and instrumentation.
Joe Henderson, a much beloved player for the Blue Note label was dropped in the late sixties. Orrin Keepnews, who certainly could recognize great talent when he saw it, signed him to his newly formed Milestone label. This 1969 release finds Henderson with a near perfect rhythm section. It features imaginative compositions that easily make it a highlight of the accomplished musician's career.
Power to the People is an appropriate title for a session filled with the sense of urgency and charisma found here. Henderson took a page from the compositional methods of the Miles Davis quintet from a few years back in that many of the compositions feature the same dark corners and ambiguous chord structures of that famous group. Only "Incognito" harkens back to an earlier time in Henderson's career.
Henderson has, for the most part, abandoned the harsh tone of his earlier releases for a more smoothed over sound, giving up nothing in confidence. Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter are session musicians here, featured both on acoustic and electric instruments.
Jack DeJohnette, another master who would contribute heavily to Miles' electric period, provides skilled drumming in the background. As an added bonus, two selections feature Mike Lawrence, a promising trumpeter who died in 1983.
As part of the Keepnews Collection, the sound on this release is superb. Carter is served especially wellevery note is clearly heard. Hancock's electric piano, at times both burbling in the background and providing an acid sting, is also crisp.
While signed to the Blue Note label, Henderson provided seminal releases in the accepted format. On many levels, Power to the People is more satisfying, a neglected gem that showcases an artist reaching for all that he can accomplish.
Track Listing: Black Narcissus; Afro-Centric; Opus One-Point-Five; Isotope; Power To the People; Lazy Afternoon; Foresight and Afterthought.
Personnel: Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Mike Lawrence: trumpet; Herbie Hancock: piano, electric piano; Ron Carter: bass, electric bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.