Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Look Back at Joe Henderson’s Page One

“Auspicious” is the word springing to mind when considering the 1963 debut recording led by the legendary tenor saxophonist, composer, and arranger Joe Henderson. Fifty-two years after its release, Page One stands as one of the greatest first statements in jazz history. The session was described in the All Music Guide as a “particularly strong and historic effort” and critic Scott Yanow included the album on his list of the 17 Essential Hard Bop Recordings.

As he had with a number of other budding jazz giants, trumpeter Kenny Dorham championed the young Henderson, inviting the then 26-year-old to make his first recorded appearance on Dorham’s own debut release for Blue Note, 1963’s Una Mas – an album that also marked the first encounter between pianist Herbie Hancock and drummer Tony Williams before they both gained fame as part of Miles Davis’ second great quintet. For Henderson’s Page One, Dorham contributed his inimitable playing, composed two tunes and penned the album’s original liner notes, in which he described the emerging Henderson as “the goateed astronaut of the tenor sax” and “one of the most musical young saxophonists to show since Charlie Parker.”

Dedicated to Henderson's parents, the session features a superb band including bassist Butch Warren, drummer Pete La Roca, and pianist McCoy Tyner, who is only alluded to on the cover as “etc.”, since he had recently signed to Impulse! Records and a cover credit would have violated his contract.

Two standout tracks from Page One became immortal jazz standards, including Henderson’s classic “Recorda Me” as well as Dorham’s sprightly bossa nova “Blue Bossa,” a tune that has become one of the most performed compositions in the jazz canon. Henderson’s fiery swinger “Homestretch” and the intricately arranged “Jinrikisha” balance Dorham’s tender ballad dedicated to his daughter, “La Mesha,” and the closing blues “Out of the Night,” which ably demonstrates Henderson’s tenor mastery.

In his liner notes, Dorham summed up the album with this wish for Henderson’s career – a wish that undoubtedly came true:
“Here’s hoping that the young gentleman from Lima (Ohio) can cash in on all his wonderful talents – his arranging, composing and tenor “saxophoning” extraordinary. Here’s hoping that his skies remain blue and his horizon clear, and that he receives his due, and that all who hear him will support the boy from “Soulsville.”

The SFJAZZ Collective will pay tribute to Henderson’s Page One with a pair of exclusive Hotplate performances in the Joe Henderson Lab on Thursday, October 15. Tap here for more information.

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