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Big Band

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 22, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

His first big band recording (1996) featuring Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Nicholas Payton & more!

Amazon.com

As a teenager, Joe Henderson caught the tail-end of the big-band era in the '50s and became enthralled in particular with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Gil Evans' work with Miles Davis. Even though Henderson started recording in 1963, when jazz-orchestra opportunities had become rare, it's a shock to learn that Joe Henderson Big Band is the saxophonist's first-ever album with a large ensemble. Far from being a nostalgic look back at the days of Basie and Ellington, however, it's a modernist project that suggests where Kenton's and Evans' innovations might have led if the economic bottom hadn't dropped out of the big-band genre. --Geoffrey Himes
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 22, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Polygram Records
  • ASIN: B000004761
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,984 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
For those familiar with Joe's music in small group settings only, this recording reveals another brilliant aspect of his artistic vision. I had the pleasure of playing trumpet in Joe's band the year after this disc was released (those interested can view gig photos at jameskass.com), and know that this was the fulfillment of a project he had started some 25-30 years earlier in New York as a weekly rehearsal band, his original motivation for penning a lot of these arrangements. Regrettably, this would be the last project wherein Joe was allowed to record his own compositions, and while he enjoyed the success and Grammys of his other "theme" albums produced by Verve late in his life, he expressed to me that he resented being dictated to by the record execs and not being given more opportunities like this, wherein his compositions were the focal point.
Like his playing and compositions, Joe had a unique arranging style, and I can recall sweating over some of the insane lines he wrote for us brass players as if he were writing for saxophones! ;) It's too bad that they didn't make this a double CD, as he had many more great charts that we would perform live that were never recorded/released. This album includes several hip arrangements from other talented writers (e.g. Slide Hampton), as well.
There are many outstanding solos from sidemen here: in particular, check out Chick's solo on Isotope and Nicholas Payton's on Step Lightly (perfectly constructed, for those students of jazz out there). Joe plays beautifully and consistently, as usual, and I would assert that this is a *must have* for lovers of Joe Hen's music or contemporary big bands.
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Format: Audio CD
I wasn't a fan of big band music (except for Basie and Ellington, who somehow didn't fit my definition of big band) until my friend Brian pointed out I was wrong thinking that the format precluded most solos of note. This album showcases both the solo work of Henderson and other luminaries, while still playing tight, sympathetic ensemble work. The CD is effective on both levels. The music can be intimate (Isotope, a beautifully realized tribute to Monk featuring Henderson and Corea) or big and brash ("Inner Urge") or, as in the majority of pieces here, both.
"A Shade of Jade" features Henderson and Hubbard with some good punch, ultimately, though, I found it a little too long (8.22). Things are more in focus on "Step Lightly," a mellow blues by Henderson with interesting solos by Henderson, Corea, and Nicholas Payton on trumpet. First recorded in 1963, it has a great straight-ahead sound that is slightly reminiscent of some of Miles' early work, and with the relaxed spacing of a Basie arrangement. "Serenity" features, once again, outstanding work by Henderson and Corea, and a satisfying arrangement that must be a powerhouse live.
I've always loved Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," and Henderson gives it the appropriate film noir treatment. The orchestra mostly lays out at first, but then opens up as Henderson swings it in new directions with a brief return to the main theme. "Recordame" has a nice Brazilian beat, and Henderson's pure clear sound layers over the percussion, but, once again, I find the excursion just a bit repetitive. Overall, though, this is a very satisfying CD, and it wears well after several years. Worth a listen, you'll enjoy it.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this album a month ago and it hasn't come out of my mustang since! These guys are masters of their instruments, so the playing is thrilling and subdued all at once. Joe H. never loses the soft, ice-cream sweet tone of his wind even as he wraps scales at a hundred miles an hour around the tight, together big band. And Joe H. is competent enough to share the limelight...expert bass, drums, and piano weave excellent improvisations to evcite the analytical side of the brain while lifting the spirits. Play this three times and find yourself singing along to the very melodic improvs. The excellent production, the chrystal clear cymbals, makes this one to play at full volume. This is happy music that bears repeated listenings.
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By alan on November 16, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Joe Henderson playing seven of his best tunes( and two standards) in a big band setting is an irresistible combination. Recommended, but given the prohibitive price for a new CD, it may be worth seeking out a used one. I found a pristine used copy on Amazon for only $8.99.
To hear Joe's very best playing ( with bass and drums only), pick up the aptly titled State of the Tenor.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Thanks to my Dad, who grew up during the Swing Era, I love big band music of all eras. Some favorites: anything by Count Basie, Mile's "Birth of the Cool" band, Woody Herman's "Woody, Donald, Walter and Chck" (covers of Steely Dan and Chick Corea tunes), Jaco Pastorius "Word of Mouth," anything by GRP Big Band and now, Joe Henderson's Big Band.

Here's my evaluation framework in order of importance: song choice, arrangement (especially swing, power, harmonic inventiveness,) ensemble playing/player quality, solos. This disk is 5 stars on all counts. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you by highlighting a few points.

Song choice: Joe has taken most of his "greatest hits" and big band-a-fied them. These songs are, for me, the core of the album. So if, you like Joe's tune smithing and big bands, this is a must-buy disk.

Arrangements: a very strong trumpet section that hits the highs without cracking. Also a very good use of the small-band-within-the-big-band technique. Wonderful avoidance of arrangement cliches. Most important of all: MOST OF THE ARRANGEMENTS ARE BY JOE HIMSELF! In this regard, the disk is a wonderful surprise: a revelation of another facet of an all time jazz all star. I had the very same reaction when I heard Jaco Pastorius's big band work. Who knew?

As to solos, well let's start with Joe. For my taste, he's one of my top sax men along with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. He combines the best of these, especially Rollins and Coltrane. His genius is the synthesis of all of these great players. Then, you have Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea and Nicholas Payton.

One last point: this is one of those disks that you can listen to at many levels.
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