Jazz saxophonist and composer Joe Henderson could best be described as a renaissance man. Creating a style unique from the dominant saxophonists of his early career -namely John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins – Henderson became the consummate leader and sideman. His name has become synonymous with power and grace on the tenor saxophone, and has long been revered in musical circles for his distinctive sound and powers of invention. Although Henderson’s earliest recordings were marked by a strong hard-bop influence, his playing encompassed not only the bebop tradition, but rhythm and blues, latin, and avant-garde as well.
Henderson has had a remarkably consistent career, carving out his own reputation through technical excellence, songwriting ability, and a stunning diversity that made him a sought-after sideman early in his career. He made his mark at Blue Note records as a member of the Kenny Dorham band and went on to record with the Horace Silver group that made the classic Song for My Father. A master of composition, his songs “Recorda- Me” and “Inner Urge” have become jazz classics.
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. Henderson’s adaptability and eclecticism would become even more apparent in the years to follow.
Henderson’s playing has a distinctively tender sense of swing, which can be heard on dozens of Blue Note albums from the 1960s. Often overlooked at the peak of his career, he returned to recording in the 1980s to great acclaim.
After a long battle with emphysema and a stroke in 1998 which stopped his public career, Joe Henderson passed away on June 30, 2001, leaving a legacy and career that spanned for over four decades and a permanent prototype for others to follow.
“Joe Henderson is always in the middle of a great solo.”