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was Joe Henderson considered innovative?


CJ Shearn
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I don't know if I'd say "innovative" so much as a unique (and for many, compelling/irresistable/whatever) consolidation of a lot of different innovations. He took a lot of other player's "devices" and molded them into a totally personal voice.

Maybe that's an innovation itself, I don't know. But I'd hate to have my life depend on making the argument.

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In my mind, a "device" is the tool, the "innovation" is the result.

If Joe made any innovations, they were in terms of the mechanics of saxophone playing itself, and what he did there was take other people's techniques and apply/stretch them to his own ends. For instance, his use of false fingerings/overtones/etc has its roots in Lester Young, and also in Trane's use of the same devices. But Joe also added the "control" that comes from classical study, and was able to do something whooly personal with the device, something that wasn't really "new" in it's techniques, but was distinctive in its application.

You can say the same thing about pretty much every aspect of Joe's playing, although I suppose a case could be made that his rhythmic sense was innovative. Although his subdisions seem to me to again be rooted in classical studies. It's his application of them, with that incredible swing of his that makes them special, not the technique itself.

That's pretty much what Joe did - take everything that was already "on the table" and use it in his own personal and powerful way. I guess you could say that Joe Henderson's true innovation was becoming Joe Henderson. No small feat, that.

This is getting kind of "esthetic", and I'd just as soon listen to OUR THING or IN JAPAN, thank you! :g:g:g

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I don't know anything about playing the saxophone. However, I know what various saxophone players sound like.

I don't know if Henderson was innovative. However, I can usually recognize Henderson's playing. There's no doubt it's Joe. To my ears, Henderson has a sort of 'grinding' sound when he's playing quick notes. Nobody else sounds quite the same.

To me, any player who has an easy-to-recognize style where you can say, after hearing only a couple of notes, "Yeah, that's Joe Henderson allright!" is innovative in some way.

Unfortunately, I can say the same about Kenny G(orelick). Like him or not, I can easily recognize his big-end-out-first, turd shaped notes. Is the G-Boy innnovative?

Edited by wesbed
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In my mind, a "device" is the tool, the "innovation" is the result.

If Joe made any innovations, they were in terms of the mechanics of saxophone playing itself, and what he did there was take other people's techniques and apply/stretch them to his own ends. For instance, his use of false fingerings/overtones/etc has its roots in Lester Young, and also in Trane's use of the same devices. But Joe also added the "control" that comes from classical study, and was able to do something whooly personal with the device, something that wasn't really "new" in it's techniques, but was distinctive in its application.

You can say the same thing about pretty much every aspect of Joe's playing, although I suppose a case could be made that his rhythmic sense was innovative. Although his subdisions seem to me to again be rooted in classical studies. It's his application of them, with that incredible swing of his that makes them special, not the technique itself.

That's pretty much what Joe did - take everything that was already "on the table" and use it in his own personal and powerful way. I guess you could say that Joe Henderson's true innovation was becoming Joe Henderson. No small feat, that.

This is getting kind of "esthetic", and I'd just as soon listen to OUR THING or IN JAPAN, thank you!  :g  :g  :g

Posted: Sep 28 2004, 05:38 PM 

I don't know if I'd say "innovative" so much as a unique (and for many, compelling/irresistable/whatever) consolidation of a lot of different innovations. He took a lot of other player's "devices" and molded them into a totally personal voice.

Maybe that's an innovation itself, I don't know. But I'd hate to have my life depend on making the argument.

I certainly do not have the technical knowledge of Jim with respect to Joe's technique on the saxophone, but I have always been impressed by Joe's almost unique ability to add greatness to any session. Whether playing sideman on some outside date, or leading a trio straghtahead, his star shown. If that is "innovative" I am probably not qualified to speak. As a lay person I do know that when Joe Henderson appears on the session I know I am in for something special.

Edited by Morganized
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although I suppose a case could be made that his rhythmic sense was innovative. Although his subdisions seem to me to again be rooted in classical studies. It's his application of them, with that incredible swing of his that makes them special, not the technique itself.

Like most here, I'm not sure if Joe was innovative as such (in the strict sense of the word). But I do especially agree with Jim, that Joe's rhythmic sense was one of his strongest areas (though he was certainly strong in a whole bunch of areas).

That, and also his use of space - which I also feel was somewhat unique, at least among tenor-players. Somehow Joe always seemed to have a great rhythmic sense of urgency to his music (or maybe "tension" is a better word) – in his use of fast notes, and in his tone... ...and yet, he always found ways of leaving quite a bit of space (rests) in his solos. (I think this is usually where somebody says something about his fire not burning as bright, but never the less, burning twice as deep – or something very cliché like that.)

Perhaps it should also be said that Joe went his own way, during a time when many were trying to go Coltrane's way (or at least those perceived as being the "strongest" players were going Coltrane's way -- both in the 60's, and in the 70's too).

I guess the real key is to try and figure out and discuss what made Joe's playing unique. As Jim has pointed out, it wasn't any one thing. But it was probably his unique combination of strengths.

(Standard disclaimer: Joe's probably my all-time favorite tenor player.)

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I'm a huge Joe fan and I have no problem saying that Joe wasn't particularly innovative.

I do think he expanded the scope of expression on the tenor as it existed at that time, and he certainly was unique and original in the sense that he is instantly identifiable. Many players could be included in this category. Is that considered to be innovation?

How about Wayne Shorter (another favorite of mine)? I would say he was quite innovative as a composer, but what about as a player? I would describe Wayne's playing the same way as Joe's in the preceding paragraph. Could you call Wayne the tenor player innovative and not Joe?

I think saying someone might not have been innovative doesn't mean that they were or are overrated.

Edited by Free For All
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Joe had a distinctive tone. Who cares whether he was an innovator? He had a unique tone and was a damn fine player--that's innovative enough for me.

The same could be said of Mobley. I'm lucky that somehow I figured out pretty early on what you're saying about Joe applied to Mobley as well. Not everyone has to be the 1st to step on the moon to be noticed or enjoyed. Love 'em both to pieces.

Damn fine players are a treasure. If they compose too, even more power to 'em.

By the way, I love your modest story about Joe "pretending" to remember you. Though that sounds a classy kind of thing he'd do to be polite, I'm tempted to think he really did remember you!

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By the way, I love your modest story about Joe "pretending" to remember you. Though that sounds a classy kind of thing he'd do to be polite, I'm tempted to think he really did remember you!

Did I miss this post? Where was it?

Hmm, sorry I can't find it (my ISP is acting up which is making mere posting difficult.) It was from a thread long ago. I remember it just because I was in major Henderson accumulation mode at the time.

As I recall Rainyday's story went along the lines that she doesn't try to talk up the talent at clubs other than to say "nice show" (or the equivalent) if she happens to pass by on the way to the door. Uh, sorry, I'm back from the bar :g myself so I'm not sure exactly now how exactly the story goes, but perhaps she mentioned how she'd enjoyed his performance the time before and he mentioned he remembered seeing her. (Hiccup on my part.)

Anyway, her tale is not in this thread.

I think I need some water! ^_^

P.W.I. - posting while intoxicated.

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The fact that Joe Henderson appeared on the scene at about the same time that John Coltrane was investigating new fields followed by musicians like Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri (yes he was in that configuration then), not to mention Albert Ayler, Frank Wright and others - to speak of tenor saxophone players only - did not make him a member of the Innovators of that era.

He was just producing beautiful music. That should be enough!

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