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Eddie Henderson: Be Cool (Smoke Sessions)

A review of the trumpeter's latest album

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Cover of Eddie Henderson album Be Cool
Cover of Eddie Henderson album Be Cool

The opener, Kenny Barron’s “Smoke Screen,” sets the tone: Dancing at the crossroads where the spirits of hard bop, soul jazz, and funk intermingle, it’s nonetheless compromised by a curious feeling of restraint. “Cool” used to mean externally unflappable but with an underlying acuity born of awareness; too often here, it seems to denote little more than leavened emotions.

Trumpeter Eddie Henderson is a masterful technician, and at his best he summons a true exploratory fervor. Sometimes, though, as on “Fran Dance,” it can sound as if Miles’ ghost has wrestled him to a draw. Altoist Donald Harrison, meanwhile, channels “sheets-of-sound”-era Coltrane with winning verisimilitude, but Trane was exploring uncharted territory; today, a player sounding like that is revisiting the familiar.

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