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Eddie Henderson Project: Precious Moment

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At first glance, Eddie Hen-derson’s latest might look like a toss-off: a set of standards (plus two tunes by Hender-son’s wife, Natsuko), none of which rises above a medium tempo, mostly waltzing along in 3/4 time. But look closer: Precious Moment is a pearl.

Henderson works in a quartet for all nine tracks, giving his trumpet mute and flugelhorn equal time. His penchant for Wayne Shorter’s music surfaces in two selections (“Dance Cadaverous” and “Wild Flower”) that are perfectly suited for the band’s mahogany tone and find Henderson particularly charged and outspoken.

But that’s not to say the rest of the program sags.

Henderson’s playing is warm and fluid throughout the disc. He’s airy and spacious while mixed under Kevin Hays’ Fender Rhodes in “To Wisdom the Prize” and strikes a distinctly Milesish tone in the languid “Blue in Green.” Hays gets plenty of space on piano and keys, lending buoyancy to the set with bright, skipping turns and carefully constructed, stepping-stone solos.

A gently propulsive arrangement of “Dear Old Stockholm” reveals the careful listening going on between bassist Ed Howard and drummer Billy Hart, while a crystalline take on “Unforgettable” is kept simple and sweet. The only misstep comes at the very end: why the disjointed, tick-tocking “Silent Night” was included is a mystery. But the preceding 50 minutes are well worth hearing.