Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Eddie Henderson: Collective Portrait

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

In 2014, its first year, Smoke Sessions Records released nine titles recorded live at the Upper West Side club that gave the label its name. Now, with its first two releases of 2015, the fledgling label is setting up its recording equipment outside of its own walls for the first time. These two titles, led by trumpeter/flugelhornist Eddie Henderson and trombonist/shells master Steve Turre, were recorded last spring at Sear Sound’s Studio A in New York City.

As with all of the previous Smoke Sessions releases, Henderson’s and Turre’s boast closely mic’d, in-your-face sound. Each instrument comes through with clarity and crispness, with just enough bleeding of sound so as not to be sterile. And extra baggage is avoided: In the liner notes, Henderson recalls that when he recorded his Sunburst album in 1975, he’d just availed himself of several electronic gizmos: wah-wah pedal, phase shifter, etc. But the version of “Sunburst” that opens Collective Portrait dispenses with period affectation, presenting the self-penned tune as an easy-grooving showcase for Henderson, alto saxophonist Gary Bartz and pianist George Cables.

The quintet, filled out by bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Carl Allen, also updates Cables’ “Beyond Forever” and “Morning Song,” tunes the pianist and Henderson recorded together in the ’70s, and burns especially brightly on Freddie Hubbard’s “First Light” and Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan.” Throughout, there’s a no-nonsense sensibility at work, and Henderson’s playing is as muscular and skillful as ever.

Turre, too, does some reflecting on Spiritman: There’s “Bu,” his tribute to Art Blakey, and a handful of standards, but it’s very much of its time. “Trayvon’s Blues,” inspired by the highly publicized killing of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in Florida, is imbued with soul and empathy, never anger or aggression. Even-keeled in tempo, it’s an ongoing conversation between Turre’s trombone and Bruce Williams’ alto. The nimble Latin workout “Nangadef” adds Chembo Corniel’s congas to the already solid rhythms cooked up by pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Willie Jones III, and leads up to the medley of Turre’s title track and Miles Davis’ “All Blues” that closes the record (and stands as its highlight). On his always-intriguing shells, Turre gently finds the Miles melody, then expounds upon it over the next seven minutes. Turre’s approximation of Miles’ elegant concept is a beautiful thing.

Originally Published