Eddie Henderson “Collective Portrait”

Eddie Henderson "Collective Portrait"Eddie Henderson played for some three years in Herbie Hancock‘s Mwandishi group in the early 70s (check out Herbie’s autobiography “Possibilities” written with Lisa Dickey) and then went solo and recorded several brilliant albums on Blue Note and Capitol until 1979. He returned to the recording scene in the early 90s and has released a lot of great albums since then. And his latest, the Smoke Sessions Records CD “Collective Portrait”, is currently Number 1 on the US Jazz charts. The album starts out with some neat Fender Rhodes playing courtesy of George Cables. The song is an update to Henderson’s tune which was the title track for his 1975 Blue Note LP and had a lot of post-Herbie Hancock sounds on it (with George Duke, Alphonse Mouzon, Harvey Mason, etc). Here, the song features the always welcome Gary Bartz on alto sax and Cables playing a shining Rhodes solo.

The tune “Dreams” was written by Henderson during his Art Blakey years and again has some moody and sensitive intro by Cables, bassist Doug Weiss, and drummer Carl Allen before the trumpet starts to tell the story. And Eddie Henderson‘s playing always reminds me of a storyteller; he is able to create that special vibe and emotionalism with his instrument I find it hard to get from anyone else’s playing.

The George Cables composition “Morning Song” can be found on Henderson’s 1977 Fusion album “Comin’ Through” which featured Patrice Rushen, Mtume, and a very young Dianne Reeves. It’s a candid, moving tune with a flowing beat and some solid solos by the leader and Gary Bartz who still has a blazing, remarkable sound. The Duke Pearson ballad “You Know I Care” was recorded by saxophonist Joe Henderson (no relation) on his 1964 Blue Note album “Inner Urge” and a year later by the composer himself on his “Honey Buns” record for Atlantic Records. It’s a nice change of pace here before the tempo is up again for the Cables song “Beyond Forever”, another one of those tunes from the “Comin’ Through” album where this time, Cables can be heard on piano.

Freddie Hubbard‘s “First Light” is masterminded here with a lot of verve and aplomb. “Together”, written by Eddie’s wife Natsuko, is a beautiful love song. The Jimmy Heath “standard” “Ginger Bread Boy” comes over as a tour-de-force here, Polish pianist Leszek Kulakowski wrote the cool and ethereal “Spring” which features the leader on muted trumpet and reminds me of some of the Miles Davis playing circa 1958. Brilliant. Cables hanging in there on piano as well. Another trumpet master, Woody Shaw, wrote “Zoltan”. It was recorded by Hammond organist Larry Young on another Blue Note album from 1965 called “Unity”, and is wrapping up an album that consists of some astute playing by this five-piece super band and must be considered as one of the year’s best so far.

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