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Eddie Henderson: So What

Russ Musto By

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Despite its title, this Miles Davis tribute's focus is not on the classic unit that recorded the track after which the album is named, but on the style and music of the trumpeter's great ‘60s quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Eddie Henderson's mellifluous sound, meticulous choice of notes and atmospheric use of space clearly place him at the apex of the Miles continuum, and his working quartet with pianist Dave Kikoski and bassist Ed Howard (veterans of Roy Haynes' band) and alternating drummers Billy Hart and Victor Lewis (two players who have thoroughly assimilated Williams' liberated approach to "timekeeping"), augmented by former Davis sideman Bob Berg (in one of his last recordings), do more than justice to this music associated with the late great trumpeter.

The program of nine tunes includes Miles' two most famous compositions (the title track and "All Blues"); two by Shorter ("Prince of Darkness" and "Footprints"), two by Monk ("Round Midnight" and "Well You Needn't"); and three standards: two ballads Davis frequently performed ("Someday My Prince Will Come" and "Old Folks") and the ever-swinging "On Green Dolphin Street." Henderson, a fearless improviser whose sound can be either ethereal and enigmatic or exuberant and extroverted, dominates the proceedings without overshadowing the other members of the quintet’s considerable contributions.

Like Miles, he gives his sidemen plenty of space to express themselves and all rise to the occasion, particularly Kikoski, whose affection for Hancock and his predecessors Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly is dazzlingly displayed in one original improvisation after another. Berg's dark brooding tenor, heard on several tracks, impressively exhibits what Davis heard in him for many years. The unit reproduces the sound of the ‘60s quintet, but asserts each member's own personality while recreating the original compositions, with varying degrees of faithfulness, in their own image – thereby clearly demonstrating the difference between imitation and inspiration.

Track Listing: Prince of Darkness; On Green Dolphin Street; Footprints; Well You Needn

Personnel: Eddie Henderson

Title: So What | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Eighty-Eights

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