Joe Henderson: Mirror Mirror

The saxophonist's 1980 set with Corea et al has strong moments but is blighted by a two-note bolero motif that may drive you nuts

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Mirror Mirror features tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson’s acoustic quartet with Chick Corea on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. It’s one of the albums from the legendary MPS catalogue which have been remastered and reissued by Edel, the publishing group that now owns the catalogue. Because the original LP was released only in Germany, it’s been relatively unfamiliar to many listeners elsewhere.

Five of the album’s six tracks are original compositions – one by Henderson and two each from Corea and Carter. The sixth is a re-arrangement of Haggart & Burke’s standard, What’s New. Largely straightahead with some excursions into free jazz, the album has an interesting mix of tunes in differing tempos.

The highly rhythmic title track, penned by Corea, has a catchy melody in waltz-time. Candlelight, a ballad by Carter, displays Henderson in sweet-toned mode and Corea soloing on piano. Carter’s second contribution, Keystone, features an engaging sax and piano duet and measured interplay between bass and drums.

The set is somewhat let down by the next number, Henderson’s modally based composition, Joe’s Bolero. This is due to an irritating repetition of two descending notes, which I suspect is Henderson’s attempt to recall the trumpet fanfare that often opened Spanish bullfights. The problem is that the twin tones sound discordant on tenor sax and pierce the ears like a high-pitched fire siren.

In contrast, Henderson’s playing on What’s New is warm and mellifluous and the track has has a superb walking bass. Corea’s Blues for Liebestraum closes the album with rich tenor tones and smart soloing from all the band. Mirror Mirror may take two or three plays to fully appreciate but it will be time well spent.

Discography
Mirror, Mirror; Candlelight; Keystone; Joe’s Bolero; What’s New; Blues for Liebestraum (44.03)
Henderson (ts); Chick Corea (p); Ron Carter (b); Billy Higgins (d). Los Angeles, January 1980.
MPS Music