Long before Wallace Roney became a Miles Davis protege in the late '80s, Eddie Henderson had forgone his training in medicine, falling under the direct and indirect influence of the Prince of Darkness in the late '60s. With groups including Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band from '70 to '72, Henderson forged a voice whose tone may have been influenced by Davis, but with an adventurous spirit all his own. In the ensuing years, while the spirit of Miles never left him, Henderson developed his own body of work, one that in recent years has seen him returning to a more hard bop style.
Until now. His latest release on Sirocco, Time & Spaces , finds Henderson in an almost schizophrenic mood, alternating between the more cerebral post bop of Miles' mid-'60s band and his more fusion-informed work of the later '60s, and a more tender and lyrical disposition. While this could come across as unfocused in lesser hands, it all makes perfect sense under Henderson's leadership.
Ably supported by pianist Dave Kikoski (who doubles on Fender Rhodes and synthesizers on two tracks), bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Victor Lewis, Henderson reconvenes the group that was responsible for most of his last recording, '03's So What , for a session that combines the heady intellectualism of Wayne Shorter's "Water Babies," "Masqualero," and "Angola" with a more poignant duet with Kikoski, "Tender You," and the late-night romanticism of "Summer Knows (Theme from Summer of '42)."
Henderson's own "Entropy," which superimposes a swinging sensibility over a deep, dark groove, may be the revelation of the set, a tune that has its reference point in Miles' work of the late '60s, but is less dense, less brash. Kikowski peppers the piece with abstractions on Fender Rhodes, while Howard and Lewis are more implicit, alluding to a variety of feels without ever settling wholly on them for any length of time. The album closes with a powerful version of Joe Zawinul's "Directions," with Henderson's approach honouring the looser, rockier inflection of the tune without becoming overly aggressive.
Over the course of a forty-year career, Henderson has managed to build a strong reputation for integrity and personal vision, even while he remains a little more under the radar than he deserves. Perhaps it is his ongoing reference to Miles that has caused him to be ultimately well-regarded but not considered a creative trend-setter, but that's a moot point. One testimonial of a true performer is the ability to create vibrant music that remains current while honouring the traditions that came before. By mixing the abstract and the corporeal, the tender and the strong, the old and the new, the Time and Spaces , Henderson has created a paradoxical recording that manages to ultimately succeed on its own term as a unified, coherent and cogent statement.
Personnel: Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Dave Kikoski (piano, Fender Rhodes/Keyboards on "Entropy," "Directions"),
Ed Howard (bass), Victor Lewis (drums).