Joe Henderson: The Complete An Evening With / The Standard Joe

In between his periods with Blue Note and Verve the saxophonist made two albums for Italian label Red Records, here reissued with bonuses


As happened with some older established musicians, Joe Henderson finally became a popular jazz artist in the 1980s. Born in 1937, the saxophonist was then at the height of his powers. Blue Note, which had fostered his career in the 1960s, re-signed him, exploiting the 80s jazz revival with the 1986 release of the two-volume State Of The Tenor, recorded at the Village Vanguard. These recordings used the trio format famously deployed by Sonny Rollins in 1957 on his Village Vanguard albums, which were also for Blue Note. As with later albums that Henderson made in this format, including those reviewed here, the drummer was Al Foster; Ron Carter appeared on drums. 

Following what turned out to be a brief return to Blue Note, Henderson signed for Italian label Red Records, where he recorded two more albums for piano-less trio, here reissued. To complete the story, in 1991, Verve expressed an interest in signing Henderson. So he completed his contract with Red by recording The Standard Joe in March 1991, before moving to Verve.

Both Red albums have an interesting mix of material, featuring standards and jazz standards. The saxophonist used Monk’s Ask Me Now as a ballad feature, and it appears on the first of the Red releases, The Complete An Evening With. On The Standard Joe, Henderson and his trio make familiar material such as Body And Soul and Take The A Train seem new. The former is in two versions, and the saxophonist rapidly leaves the usual ballad feel behind. The album also features Henderson’s memorable blues composition Inner Urge. Both reissues add bonus tracks from the same sessions to the original track lineups.

Henderson’s roots were in bebop and Sonny Rollins. Each piece has interesting chord progressions. As Stuart Nicholson comments in his liner notes, Henderson’s style grew out of Rollins’ sense of phrasing, but rhythmically Henderson was looser. For this exposed trio setting, my preference is for a more active bassist like Rufus Reid, rather than Charlie Haden’s deep “song of the earth”. That’s partly a matter of taste – both are superb bassists. But Reid seems more appropriate when there’s no chordal instrument – he’s more harmonic than Haden, and more dynamic. So for personnel reasons, The Standard Joe with Rufus Reid is the more memorable release to me. Both albums are excellent, and it’s great to hear this fine musician in his prime.

[The Complete An Evening With] Visa; Rue Chaptal/Royal Roost; All The Things You Are; Invitation; Beatrice; Serenity; Ask Me Now (78.23)
Henderson (ts); Rufus Reid (b); Al Foster (d). Genoa, Italy, 9 July 1987.
Red Records RR1233342
[The Standard Joe] Blue Bossa; Inner Urge; Body And Soul; Take The A Train; Round Midnight; Blues In F (In ‘N Out); Body And Soul (70.21)
Henderson (ts); Charlie Haden (b); Foster (d). New York, 26 March 1991.
Red Records RR1232482