Joe Henderson (April 24, 1937 – June 30, 2001) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. In a career spanning more than forty years Henderson played with many of the leading American players of his day and recorded for several prominent labels, including Blue Note.
From a very large family with five sisters and nine brothers, Henderson was born in Lima, Ohio, and was encouraged by his parents and older brother James T. to study music. He dedicated his first album to them "for being so understanding and tolerant" during his formative years. Early musical interests included drums, piano, saxophone and composition. According to Kenny Dorham, two local piano teachers who went to school with Henderson's brothers and sisters, Richard Patterson and Don Hurless, gave him a knowledge of the piano. He was particularly enamored of his brother's record collection. It seems that a hometown drummer, John Jarette, advised Henderson to listen to musicians like Lester Young, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker. He also liked Flip Phillips, Lee Konitz and the Jazz at the Philharmonic recordings. However, Parker became his greatest inspiration. His first approach to the saxophone was under the tutelage of Herbert Murphy in high school. In this period of time, he wrote several scores for the school band and rock groups.
By eighteen, Henderson was active on the Detroit jazz scene of the mid-'50s, playing in jam sessions with visiting New York stars. While attending classes of flute and bass at Wayne State University, he further developed his saxophone and compositional skills under the guidance of renowned teacher Larry Teal at the Teal School of Music. In late 1959, he formed his first group. 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. He also studied music at Kentucky State College.
Shortly prior to his army induction in 1960, Henderson was commissioned by UNAC to write some arrangements for the suite "Swings and Strings", which was later performed by a ten-member orchestra and the local dance band of Jimmy Wilkins
He spent two years (1960–1962) in the U.S. Army: firstly in Fort Benning, where he even competed in the army talent show and won the first place, then in Fort Belvoir, where he was chosen for a world tour, with a show to entertain soldiers. While in Paris, he met Kenny Drew and Kenny Clarke. Then he was sent to Maryland to conclude his draft. In 1962, he was finally discharged and promptly moved to New York. He first met trumpeter Kenny Dorham, an invaluable guidance for him, at saxophonist Junior Cook's place. That very evening, they went see Dexter Gordon playing at the Birdland. Henderson was asked by Gordon himself to play something with his rhythm section; needless to say, he happily accepted.
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 1966, 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, including five released under his name. The recordings ranged from relatively conservative hard-bop sessions (Page One, 1963) to more explorative sessions (Inner Urge and Mode for Joe, 1966). He played a prominent role in many landmark albums under other leaders for the label including most of Horace Silver's swinging and soulful Song For My Father, Herbie Hancock's dark and densely orchestrated The Prisoner, Lee Morgan's hit album The Sidewinder and 'out' albums with pianist Andrew Hill (Black Fire 1963 and Point of Departure, 1964) and drummer Pete La Roca (Basra, 1965).
In 1967, there was a notable, but brief, association with Miles Davis's quintet featuring Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, although the band was never recorded. Henderson's adaptability and eclecticism would become even more apparent in the years to follow.
Signing with Orrin Keepnews's 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 was also featured on Hancock's Fat Albert Rotunda for Warner Bros. It was during this time that Henderson began to experiment with 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, although the last album was named after the Powell and Pressburger film of 1947.
After a brief association with Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1971, Henderson moved to San Francisco and added teaching to his résumé. He continued to record and perform as always, but seemed to be taken for granted by jazz audiences.
Later career and death
Though he occasionally worked with Echoes of an Era, the Griffith Park Band and Chick Corea, Henderson 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 the artist at the forefront of a resurgent jazz scene in 1986 with the release of the two-volume State of the Tenor recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City. The albums (with Ron Carter on bass and Al Foster on drums) revisited the tenor trio form used by Sonny Rollins in 1957 on his own live Vanguard albums for the same label. Henderson established his basic repertoire for the next seven or eight years, with Monk's "Ask Me Now" becoming a signature ballad feature.
It was only after the release of An Evening with Joe Henderson, a live trio set (featuring Charlie Haden and Al Foster) for the Italian independent label Red Records that Henderson underwent a major career change: Verve took notice of him and in the early 1990s signed him. That label adopted a 'songbook' approach to recording him, coupling it with a considerable marketing and publicity campaign, more successfully positioned Henderson at the forefront of the contemporary jazz scene. His 1992 'comeback' album Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn was a commercial and critical success and followed by tribute albums to Miles Davis, Antonio Carlos Jobim and a rendition of the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess.
On June 30, 2001, Joe Henderson died due to heart failure after a long battle with emphysema
Blue Note Records
1963: Page One
1963: Our Thing
1964: In 'n Out
1964: Inner Urge
1966: Mode for Joe
1985: The State of the Tenor: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vols. 1 & 2
1967: The Kicker
1969: Power to the People
1970: If You're Not Part of the Solution, You're Part of the Problem
1971: In Pursuit of Blackness
1971: Joe Henderson in Japan
1972: Black is the Color
1973: The Elements
1973: Canyon Lady
1975: Black Miracle
1975: Black Narcissus
1968: Straight, No Chaser
1992: Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
1992: So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles)
1994: Double Rainbow: The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim
1996: Big Band
1997: Porgy & Bess
1987: Evening with Joe Henderson - with Charlie Haden, Al Foster
1991: The Standard Joe - with Rufus Reid, Al Foster
2009: More from an Evening with Joe Henderson
1973: 6tet/4tet - with Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton
1994: Live - with Bheki Mseleku, George Mraz, Al Foster
2001: Sunrise in Tokyo: Live in 1971- with Terumasa Hino, Masabumi Kikuchi
1977: Barcelona (Enja Records) - with Wayne Darling, Ed Soph
1979: Relaxin' at Camarillo (Contemporary Records) with Chick Corea, either Tony Dumas or Richard Davis on bass, Peter Erskine or Tony Williams drums
1980: Mirror, Mirror (Pausa Records) with Chick Corea, Ron Carter, Billy Higgins
1999: Warm Valley (West Wind Records) - with Tony Martucci, Tommy Cecil, Louis Scherr
1963: Kenny Dorham - Una Mas (Blue Note)
1963: Andrew Hill - Black Fire (Blue Note)
1963: Johnny Coles - Little Johnny C (Blue Note)
1963: Grant Green - Am I Blue (Blue Note)
1963: Grant Green - Idle Moments (Blue Note)
1963: Blue Mitchell - Step Lightly (Blue Note)
1963: Antonio Diaz "Chocolaté" Mena - Eso Es Latin Jazz...Man!
1963: Bobby Hutcherson - The Kicker (Blue Note - released 1999)
1964: Grant Green- Solid (Blue Note)
1964: Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder (Blue Note)
1964: Kenny Dorham - Trompeta Toccata (Blue Note)
1964: Horace Silver - Song for My Father (Blue Note)
1964: Andrew Hill - Black Fire (Blue Note)
1964: Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure (Blue Note)
1964: Freddie Roach - Brown Sugar (Blue Note)
1964: Duke Pearson - Wahoo! (Blue Note)
1965: Andrew Hill - Pax (Blue Note)
1965: Pete La Roca - Basra (Blue Note)
1965: Larry Young - Unity (Blue Note)
1965: Horace Silver - The Cape Verdean Blues (Blue Note)
1966: Nat Adderley - Sayin' Somethin'
1966: Duke Pearson - Sweet Honey Bee (Blue Note)
1967: McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy (Blue Note)
1969: Herbie Hancock - The Prisoner (Blue Note)
1969: Herbie Hancock - Fat Albert Rotunda
1970: Freddie Hubbard - Red Clay
1970: Freddie Hubbard - Straight Life
1970: Alice Coltrane - Ptah, the El Daoud
1971: Blue Mitchell - Vital Blue
1972: Miroslav Vitouš - Mountain In The Clouds
1973: Ron Carter - All Blues
1973: Flora Purim - Butterfly Dreams
1974: Johnny Hammond - Higher Ground
1974: Charles Earland - Leaving This Planet
1974: Patrice Rushen - Prelusion
1976: Coke Escovedo - Comin' At Ya!
1976: Roy Ayers - Daddy Bug & Friends
1977: Flora Purim - Encounter
1977: Woody Shaw - Rosewood (Columbia)
1978: Freddie Hubbard - Super Blue
1982: Mal Waldron - One Entrance, Many Exits
1989: Jon Ballantyne - Sky Dance (Justin Time)
1991: Wynton Marsalis - Thick In The South: Soul Gestures In Southern Blue, Vol. 1
1991: McCoy Tyner - New York Reunion
1992: Kenny Garrett - Black Hope
1994: Roy Hargrove - With the Tenors of Our Time
1995: Shirley Horn - The Main Ingredient
1999: Terence Blanchard - Jazz in Film
2004: Charlie Haden/Joe Henderson/Al Foster - The Montreal Tapes: Tribute to Joe Henderson (Verve, 1989)