Acoustic Sounds

Joe Henderson

Power to the People



Label: Milestone/Craft Jazz Dispensary

Produced By: Orrin Keepnews

Engineered By: George Sawtelle

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio

By: Michael Fremer

February 12th, 2024


Jazz Jazz Fusion



Despite the "Turbulent" Title, No Seatbelt Needed For Henderson's Late 60's Milestone Title

Hancock, Carter, DeJohnette and the late Mike Lawrence (on 2 tracks) make sublime music

In his annotation for this 1969 Milestone release, Down Beat writer Alan Heineman makes a good case for why back then (and perhaps even now), the late Joe Henderson, whose sound, both sweet and gruff is instantly recognizable, was an underrated tenor saxophonist.

No matter the reasons then, today he's far better appreciated as a leader and sideman on Blue Note albums (leader on five including Inner Urge, sideman on more than two dozen including Larry Young's classic Unity, Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder and of course on Horace Silver's Song For My Father as well as on two Andrew Hill albums Point of Departure and Black Fire both of which are definitely more appreciated today by the younger generation consuming Blue Note reissues— Tone Poet and Classic series).

His later releases for Orrin Keepnew's Milestone label, of which this is arguably his best, found Henderson (and many others) moving towards fusion. Henderson's most popular albums were the late career Verve titles where he released tribute and songbook type albums (he was also briefly in BS&T!).

Before going any further with this review, if you're not familiar, please watch this exquisite Henderson duet with Herbie Hancock on Billy Strayhorn's classic "Lush Life". The video is not dated but it was probably around 1992 when Verve released Henderson's Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn, which was his most popular album.

Now, back to this Jazz dispensary reissue, due out March 15th. According to Craft, It's the first vinyl release in fifty years and like the original packaged in a gatefold "tip-on" jacket.

Despite the title and the back cover photo, showing Henderson wearing dark shades, puffing on a cigarette (emphysema did him in in 2001 at 64 years of age) and looking a bit menacing holding his horn by the bell as if it was a weapon (or is this white boy projection?), this is not a "protest" album. To make that clear, the title tune, which is expressive in that direction, starts the second side. The opener is a delicate rendering of Henderson's exquisite "Black Narcissus", which would later be an album title for him. It might have taken by surprise first time listeners expecting something more in line with the album title. Hancock plays electric piano on the track but Carter, who plays electric bass elsewhere, is here on acoustic.

On the next track, "Afro-Centric", Carter plays electric bass and is joined by the late trumpeter Mike Lawrence, (who is not Afro-Centric) but who delivers a stunning solo and is the reason I bought this record a few days after it appeared in the record store for which I was doing the radio commercials. I knew Henderson of course from earlier releases. "It's a great record all around," my friend told me, "but catch this twenty three year old white kid Mike Lawrence on trumpet". Lawrence first appeared two years earlier on Henderson's The Kicker (Lawrence died of cancer at age 37) but my friend didn't know that record.

Henderson's "Isotope", which appeared earlier on his Blue Note release Inner Urge, closes side one. His playing on it here backed by this stellar rhythm section is, delicate, lithe, daring and more "modernized" and less "bop-ish" than his original 1964 take featuring McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw and Elvin Jones, which you can access below.

I'm not going to get into side two's tracks, other than to write that the title track is more fast than it is furious, but it will take you for a ride, the pensive "Lazy Afternoon" from the 1954 musical "The Golden Apple", the perfect follow up, and the album closer "Foresight and Afterthought" (listed as an "impromptu suite in three movements") takes you out in raucous, but well-controlled style.

Kevin Gray's remastering doesn't mess with the original's decent late '60s "solid state" sound, though if you own an original you'll immediately note it's drier overall. Fresh tape transparency gives way a bit to a slightly stiffer transient presentation that's less bathed in reverb and is therefore less "murky" and less glaringly "midrange-y". This greatly improves image solidity especially of Henderson's sax and Lawrence's trumpet, which greatly improves your ability to hear what they are saying, though some delicacy is lost. The drums are definitely in the distance. Dynamics and bass extension and articulation are definitely improved over the original.

Overall, it's a mixed sonic bag: some will appreciate the cleaner, less murky sound. Others will note a missing transient delicacy. If you are new to this highly recommended record, expect sonically what the more competent late '60s jazz records offered, a somewhat distant and isolated instrumental perspective, audible artificial reverb and a generally "solid state" timbral aftertaste but it's not bad! The stereo spread centers sax and trumpet on the stage, keyboard on the left channel, bass and drums on the right.

Back to the music: Henderson's playing throughout is as original as it is spectacular. C. Parker would no doubt approve!

Music Specifications

Catalog No: CR00655

Pressing Plant: RTI


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original master tapes

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2024-02-12 09:54:49 PM

    bwb wrote:

    The later Verves are favorites, the Strayhorn you cited, "So Near, So Far (Musings For Miles", and "Big Band". shame they came out when vinyl was pushed aside by CDs... hoping for vinyl releases some day