Collective Portrait is much more than just the title of Eddie Henderson's new album for Smoke Sessions Records. For Henderson, it's the heart and soul of the remarkable trumpet/flugelhorn master's entire approach to musical expression. Taking a cue from Miles Davis statement that "a collective portrait is better than a self-portrait," Henderson has assembled a stellar cast of musicians to create music forged with the classic qualities of synergy and empathy essential for jazz at its highest level. Re-uniting with pianist George Cables and alto saxophonist Gary Bartz -- musical collaborators for nearly 40 years -- along with the perfectly simpatico bass and drums tandem of Doug Weiss and Carl Allen, Collective Portrait embodies the creative spirit and adventurousness that is always the primary goal of all of Henderson's musical endeavors. "I've known all of these guys for a long time but when we got together as a quintet for the first time in front of a live audience at Smoke to prepare for this date, I knew we had something," explains Henderson. "It had that special chemistry."
The 10-composition collection that Henderson has chosen for Collective Portrait is considerably more than a selection of fine songs. Each piece has a special meaning to him, including three pieces directly connected to trumpet masters who were personally influential to Henderson's development. Freddie Hubbard's "First Light", Woody Shaw's "Zoltan" and Jimmy Heath's "Ginger Bread Boy", immortalized by Miles Davis, are all powerfully delivered with virtuosity that never gets in the way of the vibrant lyricism, relentless rhythmic drive and palpable excitement. Two Cables' pieces -- the fractured funk rhythm-driven "Morning Song" and the punchy syncopated driver "Beyond Forever" -- both originally recorded by the two men on an earlier Henderson album in 1977, are marvelously re-imagined for this recording. Two Henderson originals (both featuring Cables on electric piano) are included, the surging but wistful Spanish-influenced "Sunburst" and the highly atmospheric, aptly titled "Dreams."
And what would a Henderson album be without the exquisite balladry for which he is an acknowledged master. Duke Pearson's captivating "You Know I Care" is given a tender and serene rendition; Leszek Kulakowski's "Spring" takes a more sprightly, but no less sensitive approach; and "Together," by Henderson's wife Natsuko, celebrates their 20 years together in a most lovely manner.
The musicianship is -- as one would expect from these gentlemen -- simply spectacular. Bartz (absent on the ballads and "Beyond Forever") is typically scintillating -- fiery, full-bodied and fluently virile. Cables brings his mastery of time, space and lyricism to every piece; and Weiss and Allen are impeccable in their tastefulness and drive, always bringing exactly what is needed and more. While the music is clearly a shared endeavor, Henderson's extraordinary artistry is front and center. His powerfully glowing sound, flawless intonation and willingness to take chances without ever missing his mark is, as always, breathtaking.
Often compared to Miles Davis for his deep lyricism and modal mastery, Henderson has contributed mightily to the music of many of the modern giants, including Herbie Hancock (including three years with Hancock's Mwandishi group), McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, among many others; including that foremost University of Jazz -- Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He also attended some more widely recognized universities in pursuit of his medical degree, and in addition to his busy musical career, Henderson also practiced psychiatry for more than 10 years. Although he is widely recognized by musicians and knowledgeable fans as one of the finest musicians of the past 40 years, he has not yet achieved the popular recognition he deserves. Collective Portrait should help bring about a cure to that.
"Collective Portrait" was recorded live in New York at Sear Sound's Studio A on a Rupert Neve 8038 custom console and mixed to ½" analog tape using a Studer mastering deck.
Eddie Henderson · Collective Portrait / Smoke Sessons Records ·Release Date: February 10, 2015