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Famous Like Me > Composer > H > Joe Henderson

Profile of Joe Henderson on Famous Like Me

Name: Joe Henderson  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 24th April 1937
Place of Birth: Lima, Ohio, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Joe Henderson (April 24, 1937 - June 30, 2001) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. Born in Lima, Ohio, USA, he studied music at Kentucky State College and Wayne State University before playing in Detroit at the beginning of his career.

One of fifteen children, Joe was encouraged by his parents and an older brother to study music. Early musical interests included drums, piano, saxophone and composition. He was particularly enamored of his brother's record collection. He listened to Lester Young, Flip Phillips, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Charlie Parker and Jazz at the Philharmonic recordings. By eighteen, Henderson was active on the Detroit jazz scene of the mid-'50s, playing in jam sessions with visiting New York stars. The diverse musical opportunities prompted Joe to learn flute and bass, as well as further developing his saxophone and compositional skills. By the time he arrived at Wayne State University, he had transcribed and memorized so many Lester Young solos that his professors believed he had perfect pitch. Classmates Yusef Lateef, Barry Harris, and Donald Byrd undoubtedly provided additional inspiration.

After a two year hitch in the U.S. Army (1960-1962), Joe arrived in New York where trumpeter Kenny Dorham provided valuable guidance. Although Henderson's earliest recordings were marked by a strong hard-bop influence, his playing encompassed not only the bebop tradition, but R&B, Latin, and avant-garde as well. He soon joined Horace Silver's band and provided a seminal solo on the jukebox hit "Song for My Father." After leaving Silver's band in 1964, Henderson resumed freelancing and also co-led a big band with Kenny Dorham. His arrangements for the band went unrecorded until the release of "Joe Henderson Big Band" (Verve) in 1996.

From 1963 to 1968 Joe appeared on nearly thirty albums for Blue Note. The recordings ranged from relatively conservative hard-bop sessions to more avant-garde explorations. He played a prominent role in many landmark recordings: Horace Silver's swinging and soulful "Song For My Father," Herbie Hancock's dark and densely orchestrated "Prisoner," and Andrew Hill’s avant-garde "Black Fire." In 1967, there was a notable, but brief, association with Miles Davis' famous quintet featuring Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Although the band was never recorded, Henderson is reputed to have occasionally stolen the show. Henderson's adaptability and eclecticism would become even more apparent in the years to follow.

Signing with Orrin Keepnews' fledgling Milestone label in 1967 marked a new phase in Henderson’s career. He co-led the Jazz Communicators with Freddie Hubbard from 1967-1968. Henderson then joined Herbie Hancock's fusion/avant garde sextet from 1969-70 and was featured on Fat Albert Rotunda. It was during this time that Henderson began to experiment with increasingly avant-garde structures, jazz-funk fusion, studio overdubbing, and other electronic effects. Song and album titles like "Power To the People," "In Pursuit of Blackness," and "Black Narcissus" reflected his growing political awareness and social consciousness.

After a brief association with Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1971, Henderson moved to San Francisco and added teaching to his resume'. He continued to record and perform as always, but seemed to be taken for granted by jazz audiences.

Though he occasionally worked with Echoes of an Era, the Griffith Park Band, and Chick Corea, Joe remained primarily a leader throughout the 1980s. An accomplished and prolific composer, he began to focus more on reinterpreting standards and his own earlier compositions. Blue Note attempted to position Joe at the forefront of a resurgent jazz scene in 1986 with the release of "State of the Tenor." While the album featured the most notable tenor trio since Sonny Rollins' in 1957 (including Ron Carter on bass and Al Foster on drums), insufficient support from Blue Note prevented wider renown. The recordings did, however, establish his basic repertoire for the next seven or eight years, with "Ask Me Now" becoming a signature ballad feature.

Verve’s "songbook" approach to recording Henderson, coupled with a considerable marketing and publicity campaign, more successfully positioned him at the forefront of the current jazz scene. In one interview, he expressed his surprise in suddenly having to employ a financial adviser where for years he'd been only worrying about how to pay the bills.

Henderson's sound can float prettily like Stan Getz or Lester Young but he can also dig in with the bluesy fervor of T-Bone Walker or the intensity of John Coltrane. In a March 1993 Downbeat interview Joe noted the influence of literature in his playing. "I try to create ideas in a musical way the same as writers try to create images with words. I use the mechanics of writing in playing solos. I use quotations, commas, and semicolons." The increasing complexity and ornamental nature of his current output suggests Henderson has successfully created his own unique vocabulary of phrases, licks, and saxophone effects.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Joe Henderson