Mode For Joe

Joe Henderson

Mode For Joe
(Blue Note)

Mode For Joe

Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Lee Morgan, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone;
Bobby Hutcherson, vibes; Cedar Walton piano; Ron Carter, bass; Joe Chambers, drums.

1. A Shade of Jade (Joe Henderson) 7:07
2. Mode For Joe (Cedar Walton) 8:02
3. Black (Cedar Walton) 6:51
4. Caribbean Fire Dance (Joe Henderson) 6:41
5. Granted (Joe Henderson) 7:20
6. Free Wheelin' (Lee Morgan) 6:39
Produced by ALFRED LION
Cover Photo by FRANCIS WOLFF
Cover Design by REID MILES
Recording by RUDY VAN GELDER
Recorded on January 27, 1966

In this new album Joe Henderson, who has previously been heard leading various quintets and a quartet, undertakes a more ambitious venture, one that involved a four-piece front line as well as the customary three-piece rhythm section. The sound, of course, is ampler, and there is room for new compositional initiatives on the part of Messrs. Henderson, Walton and Morgan. Joe was particularly pleased with the company he kept on this date. All the sidemen are musicians he has worked with before and/or admired at a distance.

Of Lee Morgan, he says: "I met him some years ago in Detroit. He's a fantastic musician. For the past four or five years he's had a very mature concept, what you might call an old-young or young-old approach to the horn. I also like him because he has a sense of humor, and because he really digs in and helps with suggestions on dates. We had a nice blend and seemed sympathetic to each other on his own dates like The Sidewinder and The Rumproller, so he was a logical choice for this session.

"I've known Curtis Fuller since the Detroit days, too; in fact, we were in a few classes at Wayne University together when he was working locally with Yusef Lateef's combo. Barry Harris is the first Detroit cat I ever recorded with, and Curtis is the second. I admire him as a person, and as an artist of great musical worth.

"Bobby Hutcherson I don't know that well personally; he's spent a lot of his time on the West Coast. We did a Grant Green LP together a while back--the Idle Moments album--and I knew he'd be a valuable addition to this date, not only as a soloist but as part of the front line for the fourway writing.

"Joe Chambers is one of my favorite drummers to play with. I like to listen to Max Roach but I don't know whether I'd enjoy playing with him. Joe's a fine pianist and composer - you know. He's one drummer with real musical knowledge; he has a sort of ESP, as all musicians should, when they're working behind the soloist.

"As for Ron Carter, I don't know him as a close friend, but as a musician he's admirable, and he was really necessary for this album. I never really knew him in Detroit, though I jammed with him when he was in town with Chico Hamilton. He's so sensitive. On 'A Shade of Jade' I just gave him a skeleton part, where he had to work closely with the horns and the rhythm, but he kept working his way into the arrangement exactly the way I wanted"

Cedar Walton's participation was equally helpful, says Joe: "Just before making this album we had a gig together in Pittsburgh, and we used it to rehearse his tunes and mine. So came to the session familiar with everything, and played very eloquently."

"A Shade of Jade" certainly fits the occasion not only as an illustration of Joe's melodic creativity but as a medium for some of the best blowing in the album by the leader, Lee and Cedar. Notice that the C Minor melody moves within a narrow melodic range, from G down to C, but in the release the cheerful changes offer a well-timed contrast in mood.

"Mode For Joe," Cedar Walton's theme, involves suspensions of the rhythm during the exposition of the theme. "In this passage I play two roles," says Joe, "one as part of the four-way voicing with trumpet, 'bone and vibes, and then secondly the solo fills." Joe's fast-evolving technique is used in his solo here as a means to a well-structured end. Bobby and Curtis, in their choruses, seem well attuned to the vibrations of this delightful melody. "We got the feeling for this one right away," says Joe. "This was the first take."

"Black," the other theme by Walton, is a simple tune in long notes with a 8-8-16-8 construction. Ron Carter's sturdy walking provides an inspiring, propulsive element for Henderson; Chambers' steady urgency is no less effective in his support of Lee. The piano solo is particularly outstanding ("Cedar really burned his hands off there," says Joe) and the solo by the leader is notable for the use of unpredictable intervals, typical of the diversity of ideas to be found in a Henderson solo. Notice the tricky voicing on the concluding chord, which basically is an F minor.

"Caribbean Fire Dance" is a syncopated theme with a strange haunting unresolved quality and assorted touches of Latin and Calypso feelings. "I did Latin music more and more," Joe says. His own solo here has an engaging sense of freedom, though it is never so free as to escape from its context. Lee and Curtis follow, after which there is another reminder that Hutcherson may well be the most inventive of the new wave of vibesmen.

"Granted" was named for Alan Grant, of WABC-FM in New York. "He's been very kind to me ever since I came to New York. In fact, he and Kenny Dorham originally introduced me to Alfred Lion. Al has used me as leader of my own groups on concerts that he's presented around town." The composition represents Joe's boppish bag, a unison affair that surrounds some of the most headstrong blowing of the set, by all three horns and by Bobby.

"Free Wheelin'" was written on the spur of the moment, during the session, by Lee Morgan. It might be called a 24-bar blues in 3/4 or a 12-bar blues in 6/4, depending how your ears adjust to it. Either way, Joe fits himself eloquently to the mood of the tune. His tendency to rhythmic and melodic complexity expands rather than limits the essential blues character of the performance. Note, too, the funky piano by Cedar behind Lee's solo, the complementary accents by Chambers during Fuller's outing ("Curtis reached back and got some of his old Detroit licks in there," says Joe), and the simple, honest statement by Hutcherson.

Admirers of Joe Henderson who have been following his career as a sideman and as a recording bandleader will probably know by now that he has decided on the important step into full-time leadership. As the six tracks on these sides fluently indicate, he is well on his way to becoming one of the major new jazz figures of the late 1960s.

--LEONARD FEATHER, from the liner notes.

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