Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Joe Henderson - Power to the People (Milestone 1969, 2006)

Tenor saxophonist and composer Joe Henderson signed to the Milestone label after an excellent run with the Blue Note label. On Milestone, he would begin to experiment and look at the different ways jazz could evolve in the post-Coltrane era. On this record, he was joined by a heavy hitting crew of Herbie Hancock on electric and acoustic keyboards, Ron Carter on electric and acoustic bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Mike Lawrence sits in on trumpet on a few tunes. "Black Narcissus" opens the album with some mild soloing from Henderson over mid-tempo bass and drums and shimmering electric piano. "Afro-Centric" increased things up a medium-up feel adding trumpet to the mix. There is a very strong tenor saxophone solo pushed by active drums and comping electric piano. A crisp trumpet solo follows with the band coming in as a whole for collective improvisation to finish. "Opus One Point Five" is a slow ballad with Henderson getting a nice deep, breathy tone. All instruments are acoustic on this composition, and things have a more traditional jazz ballad feel. "Isotope" kicks the tempo back up again, with Henderson leading the still acoustic group with a jaunty solo. Hancock and Carter take very nice solo turns before Henderson returns with a deep solo to round things out. "Power to the People" finds Hancock back on the electric piano over skittish drums before the trumpet and tenor saxophone enter in tandem to state the theme. Strong quartet improvisation is followed by an excellent trumpet solo, really all of the work on this tune is stellar, making it the highlight of the album. "Lazy Afternoon" is another acoustic ballad with Henderson playing with strength and sympathy over Herbie Hancock's comping. The album is ended with "Foresight and Afterthought (An Impromptu Suite in Three Movements)" which is a very interesting medley of three short improvisations that push things into quasi-free territory with very open exploratory playing. Overall this is a very good album with a nicely balanced mix of traditional acoustic hard bop and Miles Davis influenced electric jazz. The band performs very well, and the compositions and improvisations are well thought out and logical. The sound of the compact disc is good but not revelatory and the CD contains the liner notes of the original LP as well as Orrin Keepnews's extended recollections of the sessions.

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