Henderson, Breckers, Hubbard et al in 1980 video gem

The bebop masters are seen playing on the cusp of fusion with Robben Ford, Alphonso Johnson and George Duke in a recent YouTube post

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Joe Henderson at the 1980 Aurex Jazz Festival, Japan

Fans of modern hard bop at its peak may like to see a video gem that just popped up in the editor’s YouTube recommendations.

It’s 10 minutes of concert footage, from the golden age of the late 1970s, of hard bop consorting with the enemy fusion (embodied in the metallic-toned guitar playing of Robben Ford, the synth and electric piano of George Duke and the electric bass guitar of Alphonso Johnson).

Otherwise, it’s pure bop wind soloing (no wah-wah pedal in sight) at its finest from Freddie Hubbard, Randy Brecker (t), Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell and Joe Henderson (ts). Peter Erskine (d) doesn’t solo but plays straightahead swing, with no hint of the dreaded (by purists) backbeat. Watch Michael Brecker at 2:46 registering, with a raised eyebrow and a grin, Hubbard’s tasty sideslip into the IV chord.

But set aside tonal prejudice for a moment and you hear Ford, Johnson and Duke showing their mastery of the bop lexicon. Duke’s jazz fluency is well known, but although Ford later played briefly with Miles Davis and was at this time (and later, in the Stevie Ray Vaughan era, when the blues became saleable again) better known as a blues player, here his gritty, rock-toned guitar traces bebop lines. Johnson too, often thought of as locked in the funk and fusion pocket, plays convincing, chromatically inflected shapes in accompaniment and solo.

The whole is unpretentious blowing reflective of the open days of the 1970s before revivalism and the self-conscious genre division of the New Purism began to set in in the early 1980s.

The visual definition is blurry but tolerable, and the sound, as usual with such footage, better. The tune, Joe Henderson’s Homestretch Blues, lasts 10:36 with generous soloing and, later, trading round the band with Erskine. It was recorded at the Aurex Jazz Festival, Japan, 7 September 1980.  

The video, published in this case by the laudable Jazz Video Guy on 6 November this year had been published before, in 2015, by Christophe Madrona. But thanks are due to JVG for bringing it again to our attention.

The band apparently also appears playing Randy Brecker’s Baffled as part of a TV programme, The Aurex Jazz Festival ’80, of which a synopsis – courtesy of David Meeker’s Jazz On The Screen – is given here. That film seems to have been dominated, however, by performances by the Benny Goodman Septet.

Music from the Henderson-Brecker-Hubbard band, including Homestretch Blues, was also issued on Jazz Of The 80’s, an Eastworld LP (EWJ-80190), as detailed here.