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Joe Henderson

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I saw him perform probably about a dozen times and have read some articles and interviews and yet he seems among the most enigmatic personalities of the jazz musicicans whose music I have loved. In performance he never addressed the audience. I have little idea about what his personality was like and there are no books, etc. to help like you have with many of the jazz greats...wonder why. Did he like fast cars, boxing, women? I don't have a clue. Have I got this wrong?

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I had the good fortune to interview Joe on the air back in the early 90's. I found him to be somewhat low-key, reasonably friendly but not effusive, and willing to answer in detail all of the questions I asked him about his career, his records, and his stints with Horace Silver and (briefly) Miles Davis. One thing I do remember is that he chain-smoked through the entire interview, and I was too chicken to remind him that smoking was not allowed in the studio! My one regret is that I did not tape the interview.

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I'm told that he was just a very serious musician who liked to, uh..., you know...

In other words, give him a good reed, a good buzz, and a good rhythm section and he was set. All muisc, he was.

OTOH, I met his wife at Fat Tuesday's once, and she was a drop-dead fox. But she ran interference for him on the rare occasion he came out from the dressing room as well. I don't think he was aloof, just very into his thing, and willing to do whatever it took to stay into it w/o distraction.

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Thanks guys. Interesting JSangry that you mentioned Fat Tuesday's, that's where I saw him the most. It seems he did not come across to any of you as a particularly strong or defined personality, and difficult to read. On stage, he seemed rather monkish, eyes closed, unexpressive. And yet he made music entitled "Power to the People" and "If You are Not part of the solution, you are part of the problem" - rather political it would seem. And yet I never saw any sort of political comments associated with him. Do you agree - an enigma?

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I had the good fortune to interview Joe on the air back in the early 90's. I found him to be somewhat low-key, reasonably friendly but not effusive, and willing to answer in detail all of the questions I asked him about his career, his records, and his stints with Horace Silver and (briefly) Miles Davis. One thing I do remember is that he chain-smoked through the entire interview, and I was too chicken to remind him that smoking was not allowed in the studio! My one regret is that I did not tape the interview.

Hoo boy! That reminds me of when I had Lester Bowie as a guest, along with Don Glasgo from Dartmouth College, on a show I did years ago in Vermont. He smoked a honkin' huge cigar through the whole thing, and nobody had the balls to tell him "no smoking."

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I did not know Joe outside of a single phone interview in January 1996 that lasted at least 90 minutes in which he was completely engaging and loquacious, which surprised me given all the things I had heard about him. The portrait drawn by everybody I talk to about him is as a quirky (yes, enigmatic) personality who was all music. Bennie Maupin, who often practiced with him in the late '50s when Joe was studying at Wayne State in Detroit, told me that when he would go over to Joe's apartment, there'd be nothing but a mattress, ironing board and a few chairs. Maupin said, "It was like he had a secret and never shared it." Joe earned the nickname "the Phantom" from other musicians and that says a lot. I've heard stories from people who studied with him of marathon lessons during which he might disappear in his house for up to an hour. One former sideman told me that once in an airport Joe started calling out chess moves and it took her a minute to realize that he was trying to engage her in a game of "air chess" without a board. "Joe's easygoing, but he runs his world exactly the way he feels at the moment," she said.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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I did not know Joe outside of a single phone interview in January 1996 that lasted at least 90 minutes in which he was completely engaging and loquacious, which surprised me given all the things I had heard about him. The portrait drawn by everybody I talk to about him is as a quirky (yes, enigmatic) personality who was all music. Bennie Maupin, who often practiced with him in the late '50s when Joe was studying at Wayne State in Detroit, told me that when he would go over to Joe's apartment, there'd be nothing but a mattress, ironing board and a few chairs. Maupin said, "It was like he had a secret and never shared it." Joe earned the nickname "the Phantom" from other musicians and that says a lot. I've heard stories from people who studied with him of marathon lessons during which he might disappear in his house for up to an hour. One former sideman told me that once in an airport Joe started calling out chess moves and it took her a minute to realize that he was trying to engage her in a game of "air chess" without a board. "Joe's easygoing, but he runs his world exactly the way he feels at the moment," she said.

I was discharged from the Army in March 1959. I grew up in Detroit and so returned home to Detroit when I left the Army. Joe Henderson was in Detroit at that time and i had the opportunity to see this basically unknown tenor player at a local club playing with local Detroit musicians. Sorry to say I don't recall their names or the name of the club where I saw Joe a number of times. I do recall that I very much liked his playing.

Not long after Joe left Detroit to go to New York. He asked a friend of mine to keep some of his personal things

until he got situated. It turned out that Joe did not claim those things far a long long time.

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I did not know Joe outside of a single phone interview in January 1996 that lasted at least 90 minutes in which he was completely engaging and loquacious, which surprised me given all the things I had heard about him. The portrait drawn by everybody I talk to about him is as a quirky (yes, enigmatic) personality who was all music. Bennie Maupin, who often practiced with him in the late '50s when Joe was studying at Wayne State in Detroit, told me that when he would go over to Joe's apartment, there'd be nothing but a mattress, ironing board and a few chairs. Maupin said, "It was like he had a secret and never shared it." Joe earned the nickname "the Phantom" from other musicians and that says a lot. I've heard stories from people who studied with him of marathon lessons during which he might disappear in his house for up to an hour. One former sideman told me that once in an airport Joe started calling out chess moves and it took her a minute to realize that he was trying to engage her in a game of "air chess" without a board. "Joe's easygoing, but he runs his world exactly the way he feels at the moment," she said.

I was discharged from the Army in March 1959. I grew up in Detroit and so returned home to Detroit when I left the Army. Joe Henderson was in Detroit at that time and i had the opportunity to see this basically unknown tenor player at a local club playing with local Detroit musicians. Sorry to say I don't recall their names or the name of the club where I saw Joe a number of times. I do recall that I very much liked his playing.

Not long after Joe left Detroit to go to New York. He asked a friend of mine to keep some of his personal things

until he got situated. It turned out that Joe did not claim those things far a long long time.

There is a fabulous picture in Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert's book "Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-60" of Joe leading a quartet on the tiny bandstand of the historic Blue Bird Inn in 1958. The rest of the band is Kirk Lightsey, Ernie Farrow and Roy Brooks. All the cats are in jackets and ties -- Joe is wearing a bow tie and shades. Maybe if Jim Gallert is reading this (he's a member), he wouldn't mind scanning the photo and posting it.

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What I remember reading about Joe was that he was quite interested in linguistics and spoke 7 languages.

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It seems he did not come across to any of you as a particularly strong or defined personality, and difficult to read.

Not exactly...I found him to be pretty easy to read - beautiful wife, great band, and willfully limited contact with anything outside of that, or that could disrupt that. a man who had built his own world to his specifications to meet his needs.

Joe Henderson = winner of his own game, and not playing anybody else's. That used to be a really hipass thing to be. In my mind, it still is. Espceially being able to play like all that and all.

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I can remember two theater concerts in which he did address the audience between songs, in a friendly way. He did not speak at length, but spoke what seemed to be a standard, appropriate time. He did not seem aloof.

I happened to see his appearance in the early years of Jay Leno's Tonight show. He played a solo with a longish cadenza in which he played a lot of notes. It was notably different from what you would ordinarily see on TV, not as succinct and easy to follow. Then Jay had him sit awkwardly as the only guest in the interview area, but did not talk to him. I remember Joe sitting there looking uncomfortable, but it was more that Leno would not ask him a question. I found it painful to watch Joe, just sitting there, silent.

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I saw a rare flash of humor at one concert in Paris. He introduced the band, then said, "And my name is Stan Getz."

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(When I saw Roy Haynes with the Bird tribute group four or five years ago, he had each band member introduce themselves and Nicholas Payton said his name was Chuck Mangione.)

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most interesting Joe Henderson quote (at least to me):

"I never felt like I got bebop, and it wasn't until Coltrane came along that I felt I could really do this."

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I saw a rare flash of humor at one concert in Paris. He introduced the band, then said, "And my name is Stan Getz."

Heard John Faddis introduce a band to a British audience, ending,"And my name's Guy Barker", with no "r" sounded in "Barker", as per British English. :lol:

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One lingering memory I have of Henderson is a 1980s Jazz Showcase engagement that paired him with Johnny Griffin. It seemed that Griffin's normal aggressiveness and Henderson's perhaps normal diffidence were exaggerated under the circumstances. What really threw me was the significant difference in sheer volume between them (Griffin, of course, being the more forceful; Henderson sounded like he was muttering to himself -- perhaps, I thought afterwards, he might not have been in good health).

On the other hand, I recall a early 1970s performance at Chicago's North Park Hotel (also under Joe Segal's aegis) by the Henderson sextet that appears on half of "In Pursuit of Blackness": Curtis Fuller, Pete Yellin, George Cables, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White. Everyone in that band was on fire that day.

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Make that all of "In Pursuit of Blackness."

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Make that all of "In Pursuit of Blackness."

After hearing Stanley Clarke and Lenny White blast us out of our seats in large theaters (during mid-1970s Return to Forever concerts), I am trying to imagine what they would have sounded like in a small club back then. I am also trying to imagine them toning down their showy RTF style to fit in with Joe Henderson and Curtis Fuller. I have not heard the Clarke-White versatility in action, only their loud, rocking side.

Edited by Hot Ptah

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Make that all of "In Pursuit of Blackness."

After hearing Stanley Clarke and Lenny White blast us out of our seats in large theaters (during mid-1970s Return to Forever concerts), I am trying to imagine what they would have sounded like in a small club back then. I am also trying to imagine them toning down their showy RTF style to fit in with Joe Henderson and Curtis Fuller. I have not heard the Clarke-White versatility in action, only their loud, rocking side.

They were quite tasty in 1971; Clarke still playing acoustic bass. Also, this was the best Fuller I've ever heard. Untypically for him in my experience, he expressively roughed up his tone at times a la Dicky Wells -- this probably in response to the band's overall high level of intensity.

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One lingering memory I have of Henderson is a 1980s Jazz Showcase engagement that paired him with Johnny Griffin. It seemed that Griffin's normal aggressiveness and Henderson's perhaps normal diffidence were exaggerated under the circumstances. What really threw me was the significant difference in sheer volume between them (Griffin, of course, being the more forceful; Henderson sounded like he was muttering to himself -- perhaps, I thought afterwards, he might not have been in good health).

Joe was not a particularly "loud" player in person, but being the master of the instrument that he was, he could still project his sound to where it could be heard anywhere in any room (under "normal" circumstances, of course).

Projection & "volume" are subtly different but very real parts of sound production...there's guys that will be loud as hell when you stand right next to them, but you go out 15-20 feet and there ain't hardly anything there. Other guys, you can hear a triple-pianissimo at the back of a huge auditorium. It's the latter group that have really mastered the whole airflow/support/embouchure thing.

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One lingering memory I have of Henderson is a 1980s Jazz Showcase engagement that paired him with Johnny Griffin. It seemed that Griffin's normal aggressiveness and Henderson's perhaps normal diffidence were exaggerated under the circumstances. What really threw me was the significant difference in sheer volume between them (Griffin, of course, being the more forceful; Henderson sounded like he was muttering to himself -- perhaps, I thought afterwards, he might not have been in good health).

Joe was not a particularly "loud" player in person, but being the master of the instrument that he was, he could still project his sound to where it could be heard anywhere in any room (under "normal" circumstances, of course).

Projection & "volume" are subtly different but very real parts of sound production...there's guys that will be loud as hell when you stand right next to them, but you go out 15-20 feet and there ain't hardly anything there. Other guys, you can hear a triple-pianissimo at the back of a huge auditorium. It's the latter group that have really mastered the whole airflow/support/embouchure thing.

We've been down this road in past threads, so just to quickly repeat a salient point about Joe's volume: It's one of the things that allowed him to play so rhythmically loose and with such extraordinary flexibility. It's nearly impossible to play some of Joe's signature flickering and swirling shit, or at least have it make the same effect, if you're trying to blow down the house. I was shocked at his volume the first time I heard him live but it was also a revelation because I immediately understood a lot more about how he manifested his concept. And as Jim says, volume is not at all the same thing as projection.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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I was fortunate to know Joe Henderson back in the early '70s when I lived scarcely two blocks from him in Brooklyn Heights, NY, the period before he permanently moved to the west coast. I ran into him on Montague Street one day, recognized him, introduced myself as a fan, and invited him to dinner at my apartment, a 4th floor walkup nearby. Fortunately I was living at the time with a dynamite Italian young woman who cooked exceptionally well. Joe, for some strange reason that he couldn't adequately explain (but that I could later guess at having become aware of his personal demons), showed up quite late, stating that he had trouble finding the apartment, but he did bring a copy of his most recent LP, "Black is the Color" which he autographed "To Marty and Karen, Musically Yours, Joe Henderson", which of course I still own. I recall that I played a few of his sides and that he particularly asked to hear "Search for Peace" from McCoy's THE REAL McCOY album, noting that it was his favorite ballad performance. I then played his take on "It's a Lazy Afternoon" from Steve Kuhn's BASRA LP, stating that it was my favorite Henderson ballad. He also expressed interest in hearing two of his compositions that Pepper Adams played on the latter's ENCOUNTER LP. Obviously, it was a great evening.

Thereafter I did get to visit his apartment on one occasion as he was interested in copping a cassette copy of the privately recorded Horace Silver broadcasts that he was featured on (since issued on both LP and later, CD).

Another personal highlight of Joe occurred around '74 at the defunct "JazzBoat" club on Avenue A on the lower east side in Manhattan when I went to see him and he invited me to sit down with him between sets so that he could introduce me to McCoy Tyner who had stopped in.

My only negative recollection of Henderson concerns the fact that of the only two times that I've ever showed up to a club in which the featured attraction did not show up, it was Henderson both times. Once at Slug's around '72 or so when he had a group that included Pete Yellin, Curtis Fuller, Hal Galper, etc. who played the gig without him and later around '79 or so at 7th Avenue South when his rhythm section that featured JoAnne Brackeen would not play at all. I remember that Mal Waldron was in town and sat at his table nursing a drink just like the rest of us who were stood up.

Memories.......

Edited by MartyJazz

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most interesting Joe Henderson quote (at least to me):

"I never felt like I got bebop, and it wasn't until Coltrane came along that I felt I could really do this."

:rofl:

He once dropped in with his locak tour manager to check out a venue where I happened to be playing with some local cats, and besides that his presence made us play much better, he was a very nice and easy going guy, telling about his his latest recordings sessions etc. 

Our pianist had a chance to play with him some months later, and was very uncertain about his playing, asked Joe repeatedly about it, but all he did was assure him that everything was alright. 

I saw him live almost every year over here before he hit his contract with Verve, found it great but the solos a bit lenghthy, and the concept a little repetitive. He was best when challenged by unusual musical environments, like when he was asked to play in a jazz-flamenco encounter at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival - Albert Mangelsdorff was in the same group, and that was really great! He had some exotic touch about his sound when playing this kind of music that was unique. 

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I've always felt that that quote was fascinating (and was surprised there was so little reaction here). It indicates some degree of insecurity, but more important is that it's a significant counter to the idea of bebop orthodoxy and a reflection of the kind of peer pressures jazz musicians can be subject to - I mean, he played changes as well as anybody, but he clearly thought that there was some prior "standard" that he was not living up to. It's also a little bit akin to Bill Evans once saying he felt like he was somehow insufficient because he was a bad mimic and had to come up with his own way of doing things.

Edited by AllenLowe

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