Christopher Farley | Minneapolis, MN USA | 09/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Mode For Joe" is the third Henderson-led session released as part of the outstanding RVG remaster series, and the last session he recorded for Blue Note Records.For this date, Henderson assembled a seven-piece band -- a fairly large band by his standards. The players include big names like Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Bobby Hutcherson, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers. But it is pianist Cedar Walton who is the standout player on this session. Every one of his solo makes you stop and take notice. Three of the 6 master takes are bona-fide classics: "A Shade of Jade", "Mode For Joe", and "Carribean Fire Dance". This makes Mode For Joe an excellent record, but I don't feel it quite reaches the mark of Henderon's earlier records for Blue Note. I prefer Henderson in more intimate settings, and I think things get a little cluttered with five players vying for solo space on a 40 minute record.A word on the sound quality: Although this is a Rudy Van Gelder remaster, he was not the original engineer for this session. This was recorded pretty hot, and there are a few points where the players overload (saturate) the tape. Overall, though, the sound quality is acceptable."
Not the greatest Joe Henderson, but all Henderson is great
Matt Bailey | SLC, Utah | 05/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off, I don't know what "popular history" the reviewer two down from me is referring to, but jazz in the mid 60's is not "stagnant and uninspired." It's one of the most vibrant times in jazz history, and in my opinion, the period of 1962-66 is simply THE greatest ever. Bitches Brew doesn't even come CLOSE.
Anyways, one of the greatest players in the greatest period is Joe Henderson, widely acknowledged to be one of the last great tenor-men to emerge out of the hard bop/post bop period. All his great 60's albums were made for the Blue Note Label, and all are spectacular: Page One, Our Thing, Inner Urge (my personal favorite) and In n' Out. Mode For Joe is the last, and continues a glorious vein.
That said, it's deffinitely not Inner Urge or Our Thing, and probably not on the level of Page One either. In my opinion, of his 5 albums from this period, Mode for Joe would probably have to be rated 4th. Now, let's get a few things straight. 4th in THIS batch is extremely damn good. Second of all, Joe himself plays amazing here as always, just about as good as the other albums, and his tone in particular is at its dry, biting, overtoned finest. And the way he starts solos! If nothing else, saxophone students should study Henderson just to hear the first few lines of his solos, quite amazing. His solos on "Black" and "Caribbean Fire Dance" are the standouts. The compositions themselves, shared dutes by Henderson and Cedar Walton (with one by Morgan) are excellent too.
The problem that makes this not QUITE as good as the others is the supporting cast. Again, let's get something straight: it's a great supporting cast. But this was a time where Henderson could really stretch out, really expand and dig in...and the best way for him to do that was to have plenty of time, which unfortunately, with a cast of seven, he does not have. And because this is the vinyl era, players do not get to solo on every track (I lament this fact most for Bobby Hutcherson, excellent here in a very understated role.) So really, the solos, while usually very good, are also a bit unsatisfying. Lee Morgan sounds rather rough here...still one of the best trumpeters in the business, because he IS Lee Morgan, but I wonder if he was going through some creative and/or physical problems during this date (as he was wont to do.) He is just not as thrilling as usual. And Curtis Fuller doesn't really have much to say, which is unfortunate as in this kind of setting he usually shines. Bobby Hutcherson says some cool stuff, but he really doesn't have much time to say it. And Ron Carter is fine, but we've all heard better.
That said, Cedar Walton is JUST as good as Henderson here, deffinitely one of Walton's best outings that I've heard. He contributes a few tunes, one of them, "Black," the best one on the record. He really digs in and matches Henderson note for note. Only a step behind these two masters is Joe Chambers, long one of the most underrated of drummers, so is both boiling and burning by turns here. A great rhythm section for sure.
To sum it up, "Mode for Joe" is a great album, deffinitely worth 5 stars...but get Inner Urge, Page One and Our Thing first."
First-Rate Joe Henderson
Paul Rickard | Fort Myers, FL | 04/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The jazz of the mid-Sixties is considered, in the popular history, to be stagnant and uninspired, the boredom phase in the dialectic leading to the excitement of 'Bitches Brew'. Not so. If you enjoy good jazz with a blues influence, you will find an abundance of talented players producing excellent records in this period. While the critics tend to reward those who break new ground in jazz, the rest of us are free to appreciate excellent musicians who merely improve, beautifully, on what has gone before.And musicians who can swing like the all-star cast in 'Mode for Joe'. The title tune, written by Cedar Walton, is one of my favorite Joe Henderson pieces, up there with his unforgettable work on Horace Silver's 'Song for My Father'. Like many other mid-Sixties productions, the recording features more than the standard quartet. In fact it's a septet which features very talented, young but mature-enough, performers who will be known for years thereafter. Besides Henderson on sax, Cedar Walton contributes greatly on piano, as does the young (and to this day under-valued) Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, and a solid Lee Morgan on trumpet. Add Curtis Fuller (trombone), Ron Carter (bass), and Joe Chambers (drums), and you've got quite a group, playing in a format that still allows you to hear distinctly the individual contributions while enjoying a bigger, fuller group sound than most quartets can produce. This disk is highly recommended for fans of Joe Henderson (and Cedar Walton)."
Joe in his "Mode"
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 09/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nearly fourteen months after he entered the studio to record the incredible "Inner Urge" (an eternity between sessions in those days), Joe Henderson returned to Rudy Van Gelder's on January 27, 1966 to make "Mode For Joe." Well it was certainly worth the wait! Henderson's last album for Blue Note featured his largest band to date at that time (Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Bobby Hutcherson, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers), and compositions that combined the Coltranesque stylings of "Inner Urge" with the tight arrangements of "Page One." All of the album's tracks are thoroughly modern and enjoyable, but it is the multi-layered "A Shade of Jade," featuring lovely cascading vibes play from Hutch in the theme, that will always be my favorite. Out of print for a few years now, it is great to have "Mode for Joe" back via the RVG series."
Jazz at it's best
Michael Walton | Perry, GA United States | 02/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mode for Joe is simply put, one of the best jazz albums I've ever heard. This is a superp recording of one of the finest tenor saxophonist the "real" music world has to offer. The rhythem section is completely in sync with each other, it turely is like listening to a conversation between people. Lee Morgans playing is a little rough from what I've heard before, but no less powerful. Joe is at the top of his game in this album , spewing ideas through his horn almost effortlessly. And his sparse use of his Overtone throat slids gives a razor edge to this album. Bobby Hutcherson on the vibes gives this album such a great mood. It gives it such a cool feeling, but doesn't hesitate to bite when it's needed. Over all, some amazing playing from everyone. A great starter album for those who want to get into Jazz."