Feb 14 2015
Collective Portrait is the newest release from Smoke Sessions Records, and it’s refreshing that this new label specializing in old school jazz maintains that trend even when it applies to fusion. Trumpeter Eddie Henderson was one who fully embraced the Miles Davis early-fusion period, bringing that sound, in varying degrees, to a wide range of projects… his own as well as to a free(er) jazz recording by Pharoah Sanders, a deep-end of the pool space-rock-jazz-funk Herbie Hancock session, and also projects by Mal Waldron, Kenny Barron and McCoy Tyner that situated themselves in the 90s middle ground between 80s syrupy melodicism and new-century post-bop edginess.
So, while Henderson possessed his own personal voice on trumpet and flugelhorn, he expressed it with any number of different jazz schools of sound. Collective Portrait touches upon all of them, serving as a retrospective performed in the present tense.
The album opens right out with Henderson originals “Sunburst” and “Dreams,” which dig right into the shimmery fusion sound reminiscent of his earlier recordings.
Henderson slips in some straight-forward bop on the upbeat “Morning Song,” slows things down for the Duke Pearson ballad “You Know I Care,” and then hits the gas pedal on the George Cables’ tune, “First Light.”
An album high-point is the spirited rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s “First Light.” The surges of intensity summoned up by pianist Cables and drummer Carl Allen keep raising the album up to higher plateaus. And in between those leaps, the duo, along with bassist Doug Weiss, maintain a brisk pace for Henderson and Gary Bartz to solo over. It’s one of those tunes that just explodes with life at every turn.
Things keep to a straight-ahead bop attitude with the ballad “Together” and a hoppin’ rendition of Jimmy Heath’s “Ginger Bread Boy.” Henderson then takes an interesting detour with former collaborator Leszek Kulakowski’s composition, “Spring,” trading in some edge for additional warmth, but more importantly, keying in on that immutable grace emblematic of their past work.
The album ends with a rousing version of Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan.” Full of life and all the heart of a classic hard bop sound, it’s a great end to an album that reflects those same qualities offered up by Henderson throughout his career.
Your album personnel: Eddie Henderson (trumpet, flugelhorn), Gary Bartz (alto sax), George Cables (piano), Doug Weiss (bass) and Carl Allen (drums).
Released on Smoke Sessions Records.
Jazz from NYC.