Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, NYC, August 10, 1967
Digital Remastering, 1990 (Fantasy Studios, Berkeley)
Joe Henderson's first recording for Milestone was very much a continuation of the adventurous acoustic music he had recorded previously for Blue Note. For those listeners who do not wish to invest in the tenor saxophonist's "complete" eight-CD Milestone box set, this single-CD is a good place to start in investigating his middle period music. Henderson is featured in a sextet with trumpeter Mike Lawrence, trombonist Grachan Moncur III, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Louis Hayes on a well-rounded set highlighted by "Mamacita," "Chelsea Bridge," "If," "Without a Song" and "Nardis."
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Upon receiving an advance copy of this (in my opinion) fabulous album from Milestone's Orrin Keepnews, along with the suggestion that I say a few words about it to all of you, I found myself just about as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. Sprinting to the secluded record-listening area of my home, I was remembering the pleasures I had found in other recordings by Joe Henderson, and in my opportunities for in-person listening to this young musical giant from Lima, Ohio.
Sometimes all that anticipation can be a dangerous thing, raising your hopes too high. But not this time. For the plain fact, as I soon discovered, is that a truly valuable listening experience awaits you in the contents of this album, something to capture not only your undivided attention but the emotions of your soul as well. In other words, "The Kicker", starring Joe Henderson, is really saying something for all to hear!
Joe has paid lots of musical dues ever since he began his career back in his high school days. He received rich encouragement and beneficial musical education from older musicians. But it was his older brother, James T., who really pressed him to continue his musical studies after graduation.
That brought Joe to Detroit's Wayne University. The weekends usually found him swinging with some of the local Detroiters of that late-1950s period. Klein's Show Bar on 12th Street was the true jazz spot at that time, and this is where I first met Joe Henderson. He was sitting in with Yusef Lateef and really taking care of business. The regulars of Detroit still like to recall the days when jazz was truly supported, followed and recognized here. Some of the best years were those between 1955 and '60, and Joe was among those who were on hand to make those years swing that much more.
I guess Joe left us around 1960. Detroiters will never get to like the fact that good jazz musicians are always leaving us in order to really be heard and in order to be able to survive as musicians. But we were happy when we heard that Horace Silver had hired Mighty Joe Henderson, and were proud of all he accomplished as a featured member of Horace's group. Since leaving Silver to try it on his own, Joe has led various small groups and at this writing is deeply involved in a co-operatively run quintet for which everyone has very high hopes. This is the Jazz Communicators. The other co-leaders are Freddie Hubbard and Louis Hayes. And that manages to bring us right to this album. For not only is Lou-whose credits include working with Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley and Oscar Peterson-very much to be heard here, but the very impressive young piano player, Kenny Barron, is also part of the Communicators. (Kenny was previously with Dizzy Gillespie.)
Others on hand, like Grachan Moncur and the fine bassist Ron Carter (he's currently with Miles Davis), have served well on various record dates in their time. But this will be the first time you're hearing Mike Lawrence, for this young swinger is being introduced by Mr. Henderson on this album. He blows a lot of trumpet, with so many new ideas; Joe say he's ready to be heard. I certainly agree.
There's something to be said about all the numbers on this album, so we might as well start with the four that are Henderson originals. Mamacita was first recorded by Kenny Dorham-Joe was on the date-and that version is still heard often in Detroit on the swinging Ed Love Show on WCHD-FM (best jazz show in the midwest). But this powerful new version of the tune is going to give itself lots of competition!
The best way to praise The Kicker and Mo' Joe is just to point out that both were recorded by Horace Silver while Joe was with him. And for non-Silver tunes to be recorded by Horace is a very rare distinction.
If was one of those standby numbers. Joe was asked to have seven tunes definitely ready for the date, plus a blues that could be used IF an eighth was needed. It turned out that they did need it, and so I want you to be sure to hear what we almost missed. It's so grooving-what we would call "night-fighting music" out here in soul country.
Two items rate special attention because of the way they could make you feel, if you didn't know better, that they were written for no one else but Joe Henderson and this group, just as they are performed here. Actually, Chelsea Bridge by the late Billy Strayhorn is out of the old Ellington band book, and Nardis is a Miles Davis tune that's been recorded by Cannonball and by Bill Evans (both times, incidentally, on Keepnews-produced albums). Both were suggested to Henderson by our man Orrin specifically because they come off best when played in a relatively slow tempo and, he notes, "that's a bag I particularly like to hear Joe in."
Finally there's O Amor em Paz, one of those great Jobim bossa nova melodies; and Without a Song, an old standard Joe loves to stretch out on. Well, now you're read my comments. More will surely be heard from the Jim Rockwells and Sporty J's and Del Shields and the other gentlemen of the radio world in your own part of the country. Listen to them, and listen for yourself. As for me, ladies and gentlemen, I think you can figure out that I dig "The Kicker" and that I suspect you'll do the same.
- Jack Springer, "The Swinger", WCHB-WCHD (Detroit)