Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joe Henderson Trio at the Village Vanguard - 1985: The State of the Tenor

Joe Henderson Trio at the Village Vanguard - 1985: The State of the Tenor. (English) - Joe Henderson Trio in de Village Vanguard - 1985: The State of the Tenor ( Nederlands)

The best Blue Note date of all-times (Alfred Lion)

JOE HENDERSON TRIO at the VILLAGE VANGUARD - 1985: The State of the Tenor
Hans Koert

Band stands in jazz clubs are altars of swing and there is no more famous altar than the one in the Village Vanguard, which is the oldest jazz club in the world and the one in which the most swing has been dispended. ( Stanley Crouch in Live at the Village Vanguard - Wynton Marsalis)
Twenty five years ago, on the 14th of November, 1985, the Village Vanguard in New York City was packed with an audience that came specially to hear Joe Henderson and his Trio. The Joe Henderson Trio, featuring Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on bass and Al Foster on drums, played ten sets in three days. A selection of these three days were released on two Blue Note albums entitled
Joe Henderson - The State of the Tenor - volume 1 and 2.

The Village Vanguard entry at 7th Avenue, New York City ( photo: Charles Stewart. Detail from the cover of Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard again! ( 1966))
Stanley Crouch remembers in the original 1986 liner notes, how the idea was born to record Joe Henderson, during one of his performances with his quartet at the Village Vanguard. Henderson can swing ....... There are no directions he can't handle and no challenges he can't meet, whether in terms of style or technique. During the 1980s Joe Henderson was freelancer at the west coast and played now-and-then with Freddie Hubbard and groups like the Echoes of an Era, the Griffith Park Band ( also labeled as the Griffith Park Collection). He tried to make a living with music lessons too.
Cover: Joe Henderson and his Trio: The State of the Tenor (Blue Note CDP 7243 8 28879) (photo Carol Friedman)
He was born in Lima (Ohio) April 1937 and studied music at the Kentucky State College and the Wayne University before he became a professional saxophone player in Detroit with his own band, but also toured with an army band and with a group lead by Brother Jack McDuff. His first record was Una Mas, the Kenny Dorham Quintet recording for Blue Note, where he had some great solos in the title song and Trompeta Toccata.
Joe Henderson ( photo Francis Wolff. Detail of the cover: Joe Henderson - Mode for Joe).

During the 1960s his fame grew due to his performances with Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock. When John Coltrane and later
Ornette Coleman shook up the jazz scene with their renewed interpretations, Joe didn't follow those two innovators and that might have been the reason that, although he made numerous records for Blue Note as a leader ( great albums like Page One and Our Thing) or as a sideman ( in Andrew Hill's Point of Departure, Unity by Larry Young, Song for My Father by Horace Silver or Lee Morgan's Sidewinder (to list some) he never became the big jazz star in those days ....... During the 1970s the music he played and recorded ( on Milestone and Verve) evolved from hard-bop up to fusion and avant-garde, and again back to his roots, the hardbop. He even played for some times in the group Blood Sweat and Tears.

Joe Henderson ( photo Francis Wolff. Detail of the cover: Joe Henderson - Mode for Joe).

Composers and musicians who fascinated Joe were Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt ( he played briefly with him late 1950s) and classical composers like Bartok and Stravinski. His muscular sound on the tenor reminds of Sonny Rollins. And maybe Stanley Crouch, who developed from a drummer and poet up to a writer and promoter of jazz, remembered the very successful Sonny Rollins Night at the Village Vanguard concert which was scheduled in November 1957. It is one of the best live recordings from the post-war jazz scene. Sonny Rollins performed that afternoon and night on top form and was accompanied at the afternoon concert by Donald Bailey on bass and Pete La Roca on drums and at the evening concert by Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones.
Track list Joe Henderson - The State of the Tenor ( in negative)

Stanley Crouch introduced his plans to Joe, who liked it and asked bass player Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster to join him. Blue Note loved to have Henderson back on the label and promised to record the concert. Of course, they hoped that this Henderson "Night at the Village Vanguard" would become as successfully as the Rollins concert almost 20 years earlier.
Ron Carter ( North Sea Jazz festival July 2008) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The performance was scheduled for three days, Thursday the 14th up to the Saturday the 16th of November, 1985 - two concerts a day. Joe Henderson gave saxophone lessons and that was made clear by how many saxophonists were packed into the club and how frequently their mouth fell open in face of his invention ( Stanley Crough in the liner notes). The concert on the first day contained two concerts and three sets were recorded; only the tune Happy Reunion, a Duke Ellington compositions, was released. The next day three more sets were scheduled and five tunes were issued, tunes like Joe's own composition Y Ya La Quiero. The other tunes were originally composed by Monk ( Friday the Thirteenth and Ask Me Now) and
Mingus's Portrait.

Friday the Thirteenth - Joe Henderson Trio ( 15th of November, 1985)

Ron Carter at the Village Vanguard ( but not at the State of the Tenor concerts)

The final day of the series of concerts had four sets and the remaining eight tracks of the 2CD Joe Henderson - The State of the Tenor were recorded in the first two sets.

Joe Henderson ( photo courtesy unknown)
The final day of the series of concerts had four sets and the remaining eight tracks of the 2CD Joe Henderson - The State of the Tenor were recorded in the first two sets. What to think about the seldom heard Boo Boo's Birthday, composed by Monk and recorded in December 1967 for his Underground album. Boo Boo refered to the nick name of Monk's daughter Barbera. Loose Change was a Ron Carter composition, which probably was written just before this concert - 15 years later he recorded it for the first time under his own name on the album
When Skies are Grey.

Loose Change - Joe Henderson Trio ( 16th of November, 1985)

The concerts were released in two separate albums, but nowadays it is available on a 2CD Blue Note album which was released in 1994. The first critics were not all that good, but nowadays this great
Village Vanguard concert belongs to Joe Henderson's best recordings and it marked a start of a new phase in his career - a period in which he got the recognition he deserved. It was also a new start for him at the Blue Note label. Alfred Lion was very happy with the results and even labeled these live recordings as the Best Blue Note Date of All-Times, all though Blue Note didn't support it very well and it seemed there was only an inadequate marketing and publicity campaign.
cover of True Note, Nederlands enige jazzblad ( in those days "the only Dutch jazz magazine) ( nÂș 13 September 1974 )

To quote Stanley Crouch in Considering Genius, after he has listed all kinds of aspects of the Village Vanguard: ..... It makes the club what it is and place it within the realm of myth, where Amnericans of all colors and people from many countries have gathered either to play or to listen or to do both and hang out laughing and reminiscing about the bad times and the good times.

Joe Henderson career was booming now up to his death and he made some more great recordings like Lush Life en So Near, So Far - the latter as a tribute to Miles Davis.
Joe Henderson passed away in June 2001 62 years old.

Joe Henderson - The State of the Tenor - Live at the Village Vanguard ( Blue Note CDP 7243 8 28879 )

Twenty-five years ago, November 1985, Joe Henderson and his trio, featuring Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on double bass and Al Foster on drums performed three days at the famous Village Vanguard in New York City. These concerts were recorded and released by Blue Note and still belong, together with the Sonny Rollins Village Vanguard concert of November 1957, the Coltrane Village Vanguard recordings of November 1961 and the Chick Corea Blue Note Club recordings from 1998, to the best live recordings in Jazz ever. Keep Swinging revived the 25 year old Joe Henderson concert and reviewed it for you. If you love to keep informed follow the blog at or ask for its free news letter.

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