The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Henderson’

A spate of nice gigs followed by stress

Posted by keithosaunders on April 25, 2016

Being a jazz musician requires paying a great deal of dues.  For a pianist it means playing the majority of your gigs in noisy bars on inferior instruments for [often] indifferent audiences.  The word, ‘audience,’ I use loosely since it would be more accurate to describe them as patrons of the bar – customers.

Last week I had a couple of nice gigs with great musicians that were artistically, as well as monetarily rewarding.  On Thursday night I played a concert with saxophonist, Mel Martin, at SF Jazz.  We performed a tribute to the late, great saxophonist Joe Henderson’s 1966 album, Mode For Joe.   The music is challenging, containing thorny, angular chord progressions over catchy, inventive melodies.

On Saturday I played with another great sax player, Ernie Krivda, who lives in Cleveland and was on the west coast playing a few gigs.  We played at a concert series in Fort Bragg, which is just north of Mendocino, about 160 miles north of San Francisco.  The promoters put us up in a quaint hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

I spent a rare Saturday afternoon relaxing in my hotel room as well as going for a run on the beach, taking in the spectacular scenery.  The gig, at the Tap Room of the North Coast Brewery, consisted of one 90 minute set and was over by 9pm.

Both venues gave me marvelous, in-tune pianos to play, had outstanding sound systems, and provided a delicious dinner.  Rarely do a pair of such ideal gigs happen in a three month period, let alone three days!

I have returned, however, to the grind.  I came home to discover a malfunctioning key on my keyboard which I’m going to need by Saturday for a gig.  Unlike cars, keyboards rarely get fixed in one day.  You must bring them to fusty, temperamental repair men, prostrate yourself before them and pray for expedited (and costly) service.  And why do things always break on the weekend?

Onward.

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Three-ring records

Posted by keithosaunders on December 28, 2010

Younger readers of this blog have not had the experience of playing a record so many times that the cover develops concentric indented circles.  My favorite records had three-rings, which was a sign of dozens, if not hundreds of playings.

Today while listening to my Pandora station, McCoy Tyner’s Four by Five came on.  Hearing it reminded me that the album that it comes from, The Real McCoy, is one of my favorite records of all time.  Recorded in April of 1967, it was McCoy’s first album for the Blue Note label — he had recorded several as a leader for Impulse — and it featured Joe Henderson on tenor, Ron Carter on bass, and the great drummer, Elvin Jones.

Henderson is simply amazing.  His time is impeccable and he effortlessly glides over the changes while meshing perfectly with the explosive rhythm section.  The album contains five striking originals by Tyner and is one of the great records of the post-Coltrane era. 

Listening to Henderson play on the Tyner composition got me thinking about the first Joe Henderson record I ever heard, Inner Urge.  The personnel is nearly identical to that of The Real McCoy; only the bass player, Bob Cranshaw, is different.  I had borrowed the record from my cousin and I was fairly sceptical as to whether I would like Henderson’s playing.  At that time, still in my late teens, I was certain that Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and Hank Mobley had said all there was to say on the tenor.  By the second jaw-dropping chorus of Inner Urge I realized how wrong I was. 

This record was probably responsible for opening my ears to more music than any other.  Not only was I hearing Henderson for the first time, but (incredibly) McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones as well. 

I had no idea…

Once I accepted and embraced the fact that there was great music created after the be-bop era it opened up an entire new world for me.  Inner Urge was my gateway drug.  I had listened to Coltrane before, but now I felt brave enough to venture into the classic quartet material.  It would take me five or six more years to get to his later works, but I had enough to chew on for the time being. 

I also began listening to Wayne Shorter’s records as a leader, as well as his work with the Miles Davis quintet of the early to mid-60s.  Wayne is an acquired taste.  He’s like the oyster of jazz — you rarely like him the first time.  Once I got used to his thinner tone and his quirky time feeling, which is not so much in the pocket, but floating in and around the beat, he became one of my favorites.  Not to mention the fact that he is a masterful composer.  The three-ring record I own of Wayne’s is a 1964 work entitled JuJu. 

 I suppose it is no coincidence that all three of these dates featured Tyner and Jones.  They had such an empathy for each other that to my ears there is no finer rhythm section.  They are in complete agreement as to where the quarter note is and they compliment each other — McCoys pounding left hand fifths and Elvin’s fiery polyrhythms.  For this reason I have always felt a greater connection to the Coltrane quarter of the 60s over Miles more ethereal (but no less brilliant) quintet of the same era. 

I don’t know what the digital equivalent of a three-ring album is.  I suppose we have the ability to star our ipod tracks, but that idea never appealed to me.  I’m not ready for the American Idolization of my record collection.

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