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A remarkable heap of pure jazz
Douglas Gray | Rochester, NY | 03/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This fourth recording as a leader for Blue Note, dating from April 1964, chronicles the continuing emergence of Joe Henderson (tenor sax) as a major force in the paradigm of mid-sixties jazz. The session includes the accomplished Kenny Dorham (trumpet), and a wondrous rhythm section of Coltrane's school, consisting of the still-emerging McCoy Tyner (piano), Richard Davis (bass) and the incomparable Elvin Jones (drums).Still one album shy of full maturity, Joe Henderson is nonetheless obligingly powerful and emotional during most of the session. Kenny's sound and style is quite different from that of Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, the ubiquitous trumpeters on the Blue Note sessions of this era, and Kenny provides a seasoned, mature and inventive sound that is indeed a pleasure to listen to.Whereas Joe's earlier 'Page One' left little room for extended improvisations, this session was much looser, and the extended tunes provided a much larger canvas for the soloists to explore wide regions of color and texture. The result is some really great improvisations by Joe, Kenny and McCoy, all backed by the hard-driving inspiration of Elvin and Richard.The recording quality is fair, and suffers from low fidelity in the rhythm section.In 'N Out - A compelling, up-tempo hard bop number of Joe's design. Kenny and Joe share the head in unison, then Joe sets the bar very high with an emotional and energetic solo effort in his increasingly unique and original style. McCoy, Richard and Elvin drive him outside with the top down. McCoy solos next, and leaves no doubt here who's pounding the keys on this session. His highly original, three-handed chromatic style is quite obvious and a joy to behold. Remarkable. Kenny, too, blows a well-balanced and well-conceived solo that really works well. Joe takes another great solo, and then head reemerges to end the work. A great collaboration with superb performances by all.Punjab - Another Henderson original, this piece is set in a medium swing tempo. After an intriguing melody, Joe blows an introspective and revealing solo, weaving short bursts into long, fast bop lines. Kenny offers a straighter, more relaxed solo, yet it is a pleasure to behold. McCoy plays this one pretty straight as well, but is equally enjoyable. Joe blows a bit more before coming back to the top.Serenity - A soothing, optimistic and playful work by Joe. Kenny takes honors and blows a brief and subdued solo, followed by Joe, who takes it up a notch with a bit more invention. McCoy's solo is crisp, yet straight. Richard's solo is short, but very inventive.Short Story - A Dorham original, consisting of a straight latin feel countered by a swing follow. The solos begin with Kenny, and remaining in a swing feel, he responds favorably to the direction dictated by the rhythm section. Joe is next up, and is equally compelled by the work of McCoy, Richard and Elvin to explore the possibilities. McCoy is back in his groove again, working closely with Elvin. Elvin gets a few moments, which he fills brilliantly.Brown's Town - Another composition by Kenny, and a great one it is. Kenny is the first to go, and he takes us to some new places he's just discovered. McCoy is up next, and starts off wonderfully, runs out of steam, then gets a quick refueling before Richard displays another inventive improvisation.In 'N Out (alternate take) - Once again, the teamwork here is so very, very impressive. And the improvisations by all are just as inspired and emotionally charged as on the original take. This is jazz at its very best.This is a big, wonderful heap of good jazz with nuggets of pure gold mixed in. If you dig the Blue Note sound at his deepest, but without the avant-garde, you'll cherish this album. The only reason not to buy it is because you only have enough money to buy one CD, and you don't already have his following Blue Note masterpiece, 'Inner Urge'. Also of interest to all Joe Henderson freaks are 'Page One' and 'Mode To Joe'."