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Joe Henderson: Power to the People


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Joe Henderson: Power to the People
Beginning with 1963's Page One, Joe Henderson led a series of five albums for the Blue Note label that firmly established his reputation as a unique and budding artist with something vital to say. He was one of many artists at that time who utilized his Blue Note contract to document his every move while establishing his creative muse during this process. Trumpeter Kenny Dorham would be a major factor in the success of his first few sessions, with drummer Elvin Jones also proving to be a major collaborator.

By the time Henderson's Mode for Joe was released in 1966, Blue Note was nearing the end of its days with Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff at the helm. The very next year, Liberty Records would purchase the label and things would never be the same. Whether or not Henderson saw the writing on the wall is simple conjecture at this point, but in 1967 he jumped ship to producer Orrin Keepnews' new label, Milestone Records, cutting The Kicker.

Both The Kicker and its successor, Tetragon seemed to offer fodder reminiscent of Henderson's last two Blue Notes. It wouldn't be until 1969's Power to the People that we started to see a change in Henderson's approach to music. Oddly enough, it's not an album that has been widely reissued in the ensuing decades, and its underground status is set to receive a wider appreciation thanks to a new vinyl edition curated by Craft Recordings and the Jazz Dispensary.

Housed in a shiny, tip-on gatefold jacket, Craft's Power to the People has been remastered by Kevin Gray and pressed at RTI. The review copy used here for evaluation was free of defects and holographic in its delivery of a wide soundstage and an immersive sound. Featuring Ron Carter's opening bass ostinato and the glistening chordal work of Herbie Hancock, the opening "Black Narcissus" sets the stage for some of Henderson's most vital work. Instead of coming out of the gate with incendiary gestures, the saxophonist impresses with his lyrical and organic approach.

"Afro-Centric" adds trumpeter Mike Lawrence to the mix and finds Carter switching to electric bass with grand results. There's a spacey vibe to be found that vaguely recalls the kind of things Miles Davis was doing at the time. By contrast, Henderson and crew seem more grounded in keeping a groove going and utilizing the chord changes in more traditional ways. Carter's "Opus One-Point-Five" speaks in Henderson's hushed tones and might be the best-recorded version of this lovely tone poem. The first side wraps up with Henderson's Thelonious Monk homage, "Isotope," first heard on Inner Urge.

Hancock's fluttering electric piano ushers in side two's opening gambit. The title track is a model of what this period in jazz was all about. One could easily hear this number as being part of a CTI record. Built on a funky groove, the chord changes are still meaty enough to offer inspiration for the soloist. Henderson first put to wax "Lazy Afternoon" when he appeared on drummer Pete LaRoca's Basra. His own version eschews the ballad tempo for a more swinging outlook. The closing "Foresight and Afterthought" is the most adventurous of the lot, yet it is still grounded in the swing ethic and that is the asset that makes this whole album so satisfying.

Track Listing

Black Narcissus; Afro-Centric; Opus One-Point-Five; Isotope; Power to the People; Lazy Afternoon; Foresight and Afterthought (an impromptu suite).


Album information

Title: Power to the People | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Milestone



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