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The Complete Joe Henderson Blue Note Studio Sessions Now Available on Mosaic Records

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One of the most distinctive voices in sixties jazz finally gets his due.
When you get your copy of Mosaic’s new five-CD collector’s set, The Complete Joe Henderson Blue Note Studio Sessions, you’ll be holding a master key to unlocking 1960s jazz.

That’s a big statement. But when you consider how much was happening from 1963 to 1966, the years covered by this collection, and contemplate how many different looks he provided through that time period, you can’t ignore his significance as a saxophonist and as someone central to the music’s development.

In fact, not long ago, one critic compiled a list of the Top 50 Blue Note albums of all time. Joe Henderson led two: Page One and Mode for Joe. Those contributions are here, as are two dates led by Kenny Dorham, including Henderson’s massive debut with the label, and Henderson’s three other dates, Our Thing, Inner Urge, and In ‘N Out. Because space allowed us, we have included five performances of compositions by Henderson and performed on sessions with Johnny Coles, Blue Mitchell, Bobby Hutcherson, Larry Young, and Horace Silver.

Short span, lasting legacy

Evaluating Henderson’s gift on tenor inevitably raises comparisons with his contemporaries John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Wayne Shorter. And what sets Henderson apart from the others might be his accessibility. No one could touch Coltrane’s harmonic depth bordering on spirituality. Rollins’ lusty, colossal power. Or the otherworldly compositional idiosyncrasies of Shorter. But Henderson’s playing made the musicians who came after him feel as though he had paved a path they could follow.

As for us listeners, Henderson expressed everything he wanted by always playing the tune. Control and tranquility on ballads like “Serenity.” Burningly feverish on “In ‘N Out.” Playful and offbeat on the Monk- like “Isotope.” He was reliably explosive when playing hard bop, fresh and disarming when he chose to play more free, soulful and familiar delving into things with a more Latin tinge. In his field of view and arms embrace were musicians hewing to sensitive and respectful interpretations, as well as players whose instincts were to the extremes of rhythm, register, tempo, and emotion. There isn’t just one box where Joe Henderson landed.

And there was another aspect to his playing. Not only had you never heard what he was doing before. Because of his devotion to spontaneous invention, you would never hear it again.

Music all around him

Joe Henderson was one of 15 children in a family from Lima, Ohio that prized music education. His came from an older brother’s record collection, from idolizing Stan Getz at the beginning of his tutelage and later Charlie Parker, and from the traveling soul bands that he could go to hear. Showing early promise, he wrote charts for his high school band before studying at Kentucky State College and Wayne State University, where jazz was king.

After a stint in the army he shot to New York and was quickly embraced by trumpeter Kenny Dorham. Dorham described a party Henderson attended where the two met, apparently moments after Henderson arrived in the city, the way Dorham told the story. They left to hear Dexter Gordon at Birdland, but before the evening was out, Henderson was on the bandstand himself and everyone in the joint was in his thrall.

Henderson established himself quickly, first alongside the older Dorham, later with Horace Silver and others. From the start, he soloing was distinctive, but also appropriate to the tune. He compared himself to an actor interpreting a playwright’s vision—the song and the writer established the intent. His job was secondary.

As an ensemble player, he was the ultimate listener. Inevitably, his solos began as a commentary or reflection of the solo before his. He might start quite humbly, building in intensity, evolving a run that, despite rhythmic byways, harmonic leaps, and occasional flurries of impossibly quick notes, felt highly developed and coherent, as though he had chosen to make his statement the last word.

Classic recordings with superb musicians

In addition to the numbers mentioned, the Mosaic box set includes such classics as “Sao Paolo” and “Una Mas (One More Time)” with Kenny Dorham; Henderson’s “Blue Bossa” from the Page One LP; “Step Lightly” from the Blue Mitchell album of the same name; his work with Horace Silver on Cape Verdean Blues; and Henderson’s own Inner Urge, recorded at a time when the young saxophonist was feeling the pressure of carving his cultural destiny in the New York rock.

The dates include fellow musicians Herbie Hancock, Butch Warren, Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, Pete La Roca, Andrew Hill, Eddie Kahn, Richard Davis, Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Bob Cranshaw, Leo Wright, Duke Pearson, Walter Perkins, Gene Taylor, Roy Brooks, Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Al Harewood, Woody Shaw, J.J. Johnson, Roger Humphries, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, and Joe Chambers.

Stunning sound reproduction

In creating this monument to Joe Henderson, Mosaic echoed something we did last year with our sold-out Hank Mobley set. We went back to Rudy Van Gelder’s original analog tapes and made new transfers with the highest-possible bit rate and today’s best A to D converters.

The sound far surpasses any earlier CDs, removing any trace of muddiness, and rivals the original LPs in warmth, range and sound. This is as close to being in the studio listening to the original masters as one can get.

On five CDs, you’ll find 47 tunes including 3 previously unissued on either LP or CD. Our deluxe, exclusive booklet includes an essay and track-by-track analysis by Bob Blumenthal, and many rare photographs.

As with all Mosaic sets, our reissue is extremely limited, and once all are sold, will not be available ever again in this form. With everything Joe Henderson could do and the many listeners he delighted, we know this series will be gone soon. Please reserve yours now.

Producer’s note

Joe Henderson literally exploded onto the jazz scene in 1963 thanks to mentor Kenny Dorham and the support of Blue Note Records. Joe and K.D. collaborated on five exceptional albums in 1963-64 trading leadership and sharing all other responsibilities.

Joe stepped out with his quartet gem Inner Urge in November of ’64. 14 months later, he made his final Blue Note album Mode For Joe and then he was suddenly gone from the Blue Note roster.

When I started thinking about a Mosaic boxed set of Joe’s Blue Note output as leader and co-leader, I was astounded that it only came to four and a half discs. Including Joe’s originals where he performed as a sideman and that he had not yet recorded himself completes the set.

But his contribution to the label between 1963 and 1967 was so expansive and ubiquitous thanks to the 20 sideman appearances he made for the label during those years – all of unerring quality, startling innovation and amazing range.

Consider his artistry on Grant Green’s Idle Moments, Andrew Hill’s Black Fire and Point Of Departure, Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, Freddie Roach’s Brown Sugar, Pete LaRoca’s Basra, Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, Larry Young’s Unity and McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy to name just nine influential masterpieces.

Even in those heady times, I cannot think of a musician of more impact and breadth in those years. —Michael Cuscuna

The Limited Edition Box set includes:

  • The set includes six album releases including four sessions with Joe Henderson as a leader and two sessions as a co-leader with Kenny Dorham. As a bonus we’ve also included five tracks by other leaders with Joe Henderson as a sideman where his compositions were introduced for the first time.
  • In creating this testament to Joe Henderson, Mosaic echoed something we did last year with our sold-out Hank Mobley set. We went back to Rudy Van Gelder’s original analog tapes and made new transfers with the highest-possible bit rate and today’s best A to D converters.The sound far surpasses any earlier CDs, removing any trace of muddiness, and rivals the original LPs in warmth, range and sound. This is as close to being in the studio listening to the original masters as one can get.
  • The dates include fellow musicians Herbie Hancock, Butch Warren, Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, Pete LaRoca, Andrew Hill, Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, and Joe Chambers.
  • Bob Blumenthal has been a recognized authority on hard bop in general and the Blue Note sound in particular for over 40 years. He applies his insightful talents to Joe Henderson’s story with detailed emphasis on the sessions included in this set.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
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