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Arkadia has a good thing going for it: tribute albums. Interestingly, Thank You, Joe! is Arkadia's first CD of appreciation extended to a living jazz legend. Previous honorees have included John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Gerry Mulligan.
Thank goodness that Arkadia had the insight to honor Henderson. Such a tribute raises the question, however, of how many other living jazz innovators should be honored: Lucky Thompson, Ray Brown, Dave Brubeck, Jon Hendricks, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Horace Silver, Roy Haynes, James Moody? The list goes on and on.
The point of Thank You, Joe! , though, is the re-evaluation of Joe Henderson's compositional contributions, in addition to his signature tone and improvisational prowess that melt jazz enthusiasts.
The CD includes two musicians who have performed with Henderson: Randy Brecker and Joanne Brackeen (she performing on one number). Javon Jackson fills the cathartic and yet demanding role of the tenor saxophone voice on Thank You, Joe!. It's quite an impressive achievement to capture those Hendersonian references while altering the flavor of the tunes according to Eric Reed's arrangements.
While perhaps "Recorda Me" and "The Kicker" remain Henderson's best-known compositions, perhaps because of their accessibility, the complexity and subtlety of "Gazelle" and "Inner Urge" provide evidence of Henderson's ability to capture a mood or to enliven a tune with a slight alteration of a chord or the overlaying of one meter on another for combined effect. Brackeen, who spent almost twenty years performing off and on with Henderson, explains the magic of "Gazelle": a 7/8 rhythm complementing the 4/4 time signature.
Unfortunately, Joe Henderson hasn't been active for the past few years. But it's obvious that he influenced legions of jazz musicians and inspired multitudes of listeners. Thank-you's aren't enough. An album of exciting music, such as that on Thank You, Joe! , approaches the level of appreciation that is Joe Henderson's due.