Bill Henderson: Complete Recordings 1958-1961

Bill Henderson's modest musical achievements were likely eclipsed in the public mind by his acting appearances in such as Hill Street Blues


Considering he performed with some of the top artists and bands of the 50s and 60s, not least Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Oscar Peterson, it might be surprising that American jazz singer Bill Henderson (1926-2016) is not more widely recognised.

This double CD comprises the first recordings Henderson made on Riverside, Vee Jay and Blue Note. He was in his early 30s at the time. The bulk of the 47 tracks are from two LPs released by Vee Jay: Bill Henderson Sings (1959) and Bill Henderson (1961). The rest are from singles – a single with Charlie Rouse Quartet (Riverside), one with Horace Silver Quintet (Blue Note), two with Jimmy Smith Trio (Blue Note) and four with Ramsey Lewis Trio (Vee Jay). All the Vee Jay recordings here were reissued by the record company on two CDs in 1993 entitled Bill Henderson His Complete Vee-Jay Recordings, Vols. 1 & 2.

Henderson pursued an acting career in the 80s and 90s. He appeared in several movies and in televison serials such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blues among others. Expending so much of his time on this alternative career no doubt contributed to his partial erasure from the collective memory as a jazz singer.

The subtitle to this Fresh Sound CD set is Señor Blues And That’s When It All Began. This is a reference to Horace Silver having hired Henderson to record a vocal version of the instrumental number. It became a jukebox hit but doesn’t compare with the original. Similarly, despite giving it his best shot, Henderson’s version of Moanin’ only attains second division in comparison to the Jazz Messengers’ classic.

Henderson has perfect enunciation in all tracks. He gets the job done in a workmanlike manner but the problem is there’s nothing special that stands out or that’s particularly memorable about the delivery. This is probably the main reason why he’s been overlooked over the years.

CD1: (1) Busy Signal; How Long Has This Been Going On; Señor Blues; Ain’t That Love; Angel Eyes; Ain’t No Use; Willow Weep for Me; Free Spirits; Free Spirits Alt. Take; Joey, Joey, Joey; Bye Bye Blackbird; Sweet Pumpkin; Sweet Pumpkin Alt. Take; It Never Entered My Mind; Love Locked Out; My Funny Valentine; Moanin’; Moanin’ Alt. Take; This Little Girl of Mine; Bad Luck; The Song Is You; You Make Me Feel So Young; Without You; Sleepy; I Go for That (78.43)
CD2: (2) Sleepy; Never Kiss and Run; Sleepin’ Bee; Don’t Like Goodbyes; Old Country; Slowly; Opportunity; Never Will I Marry; My How the Time Goes By; Hooray for Love; Skylark; Royal Garden Blues; Twelfth of Never; Love Is a Bug; Bewitched; The More I See You; I Can’t Give You Anything but Love; Accentuate the Positive; Yes Indeed; Please Send Me Someone to Love; Sweet Georgia Brown; Am I Blue? (78.37)
Henderson (v) with:
(1) Charlie Rouse Quintet; Horace Silver Quintet; Jimmy Smith’s Trio; Ramsey Lewis Trio; Wynton Kelly Sextet. Various locations 1958/59.
(2) Bobby Bryant Octet; MJT+3; Jimmy Jones Strings; Orchestra conducted by Richard Evans; Thad Jones Big Band; Tommy Flanagan Quartet. Chicago, various dates in 1960.
Fresh Sound Records 1127