Shuffle And Deal
Smoke Sessions Records
The redoubtable trumpeter and flugelhornist Eddie Henderson is 80. And he celebrates in fine style with his knock-it-out-of-the-park session featuring an all-killer line-up that includes the great Kenny Barron on piano and Mike Clark on drums along with Gerald Cannon on bass and alto-sax wiz Donald Harrison.
Henderson has done so much across his career from electric funk and soul grooves, disco and straight jazz. He’s made at least 25 albums as a leader since 1973 and came to prominence as part of one of the great Herbie Hancock groups, recording also with McCoy Tyner, Mal Waldron, Pharoah Sanders, the Mingus Big Band and Joe Chambers to name just a few. Indeed he’s contributed to over 100 records. Oh, and all the while he has his side-gig, he’s still a practicing psychiatrist.
If you need a lie-down just contemplating all that over-achievement then you can console yourself – whilst rubbing it in still – by sitting down with this gorgeous set of standards and originals, hard bop and balladry. It’s all here, all expertly performed but new life is breathed in – this is no by-rote routine.
When Henderson takes on a standard it’s one of the well-worn ones indeed. And he still makes his dent. A lovely version of Over The Rainbow slows down the pace early on here after belting out of the gates with the title track and a very Jazz Messengers-like Flight Path.
Some of the originals have been composed by members of the band (Harrison and Barron) and some by Henderson’s daughter (Cava Menzies) and his wife (Natsuko Henderson).
One of the last of a lineage – Henderson received his first trumpet lesson from Louis Armstrong, and was working, taking influence, during the careers of Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and Miles Davis.
You can hear some of the touchstones that have meant the world to him, that he has absorbed and made his own, in all of his playing. But here his rendition of It Might As Well Be Spring has so much of Miles’ great lyricism.
The band is gorgeous in support too – Clark, a funk drummer that worked with Hancock also, has recast himself in recent years as a tasteful jazzer. It was always there in his training of course but now he’s a master of brushes, delicate, insightful, blowing a kiss to each tune, careful to never hug them too tight.
A version of God Bless The Child is another stunner here – which again seems remarkable given just how often this has been covered, and how it still – so often – clings to the arrangement imagined for Billie Holiday, her voice and the wisdom she offered in the line that inspired the tune and earned a writing credit. Henderson’s ‘voice’ on his instrument was enough, when so often I pine for Holiday’s in hearing any other version of this tune.
This is masterclass stuff. An album to curl up with. An album that’ll sweep you off your feet, that’ll make the world seem a little better for just an hour or so.
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