Thursday, February 29, 2024

Lori Bell - Recorda Me Remembering Joe Henderson

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved

For nearly thirty years, Henderson has possessed his own sound and has developed his own angles on swing, melody, timbre and harmony, while constantly expanding his own skill at playing in uncommon meters and rhythms. In his playing you hear an imposing variety of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic choices; you also hear his personal appropriation of the technical victories for his instrument achieved by men such as Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Warne Marsh, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Griffin and John Coltrane.

His, then, is a style informed by enormous sophistication, not limited by insufficient study or dependence on eccentric clichés brought into action for the purpose of masking the lack of detailed authority. In this tenor playing there's a relaxation in face of options that stretch from Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker to all of the substantial innovations since. So the music of Joe Henderson contains all of the components that make jazz so unique and so influential woven together with the sort of feeling, imagination, soul and technical authority that do the art proud.

- Stanley Crouch, Jazz author and critic

"Joe Henderson is the essence of jazz ….He embodies musically all the different elements that came together in his generation: hard-bop masterfulness plus the avant-garde. He's a great bopper like Hank Mobley or Sonny Stitt, but he also plays out. He can take it far harmonically, but still with roots. He's a great blues player, a great ballads player. He has one of the most beautiful tones and can set as pretty as Pres or Stan Getz. He's got unbeliev­able time. He can float, but he can also dig in. He can put the music wherever he wants it. He's got his own vocabu­lary, his own phrases he plays all dif­ferent ways, like all the great jazz players. He plays songs in his improv­isations. He'll play a blues shout like something that would come from Joe Turner, next to some of the fastest, outest, most angular, atonal music you've ever heard. Who's playing bet­ter on any instrument, more interest­ingly, more cutting edge yet complete­ly with roots than Joe Henderson? He's my role model in jazz."

- John Scofield, guitarist

"Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter emerged at the same time with their own sounds and rhythms and tunes. They inspired me as a young player …. He's always had his own voice. He's developed his own concepts with the inspirations of the people he dug but without copying them. I hear Joe in other tenor players. I hear not only phrases copped from Joe, but lately I hear younger cats trying to cop his sound. That's who you are as a player: your sound. It's one thing to learn from someone, but to copy his sound is strange. Joe's solo development live is a real journey — and you can't cop that! He's on an adventure whenever he plays."  

- Joe Lovano, tenor saxophonist

"Joe Henderson is one of the most influential saxophone players of the 20th century …. I learned all the solos on Mode for Joe and the records he did with McCoy Tyner, a lot of the stuff he's on, like The Prison­er. He was one of the few saxophone players who could really play what I call the modern music, that really came from the bebop tradition but extended the harmonic tradition fur­ther. There's a small group of guys in that pantheon: Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Warne Marsh, Lucky Thompson, Sonny and Ornette, and Joe Hen. He's an amazing musician. I'm really jaded. I don't really go to the clubs anymore. There's not really anything I want to hear — except when Joe's in town. And when Joe's in town, I'm there every night!"

 – Branford Marsalis, soprano and tenor saxophonist

I got to know Joe Henderson a bit when I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s. He had just finished the Lush Life [Verve/Polygram 314 511 779-2] tribute to Billy Strayhorn and was working on the charts that would appear a few years later on the Joe Henderson Big Band CD [Verve/Polygram 314 533 451-2].

He and I lived on either side of Divisadero Street in central San Francisco. Divisadero is a north-south traffic throughway that cuts through several neighborhoods, including Lower Haight, Alamo Square, Pacific Heights, the Marina and the Western Addition. The street offers a kaleidoscopic mix of dining, grocery, and merchant fronts that serve each neighborhood.

The first time we met, Joe was sitting in a barbecue ribs place on Divisadero called The Brothers and while I waited for my take-out order I spotted him sitting quietly in a window seat reading some music scoring sheets.

For years, Joe wore a straw-hat version of Lester Young’s pork-pie hat and big suspenders that adorned shirts with thick, colorful stripes. This garb along with his salt and pepper beard was a dead give-away so I sauntered up to him and said: “You’re Kenny Dorham aren’t you?"  [Joe was close friends with trumpeter and composer Dorham and made his recording debut on Kenny’s Una Mas Blue Note LP.]

He looked up from his scores with a momentary, puzzled look that quickly turned into a smile once he saw that I was wearing one, too.

Motioning me to sit down at the table next to him he asked: “And what would you know about Kenny Dorham?”

That conversation in various forms took on a life of its own for a number of years in a variety of Divisadero locations ranging from coffee shops to pizzerias.

On one occasion, Joe invited me to his house and when I got there, I was surprised to hear him playing the flute. When I asked him why he didn’t play it more often in public he explained that the instrument required a “whole new orientation” than playing his tenor sax “and I’m not there yet with doing too much on it in public.”

I noted, too, that he hadn’t played it on either the Lush Life or his Big Band albums.

During this period, Joe often talked about his big band disc which was issued on Verve in 1996 [314 533 451-2]. I didn’t see him very much after the Joe Henderson Big Band CD was released as by then I had moved to the West Portal area of the city.

Joe died in 2001 at the much-too-young-age of sixty-four [64].

Imagine my surprise then when flutist Lori Bell, who is based near San Diego, CA, recently sent me a copy of her homage to Joe entitled Recorda Me: Remembering Joe Henderson which is due to drop on April 19th.

Rob Evanoff at, who is handling the promotional support for the new recording, sent me this press release which offers detailed information about Lori and the new recording which received four stars in Downbeat, Jazz Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Jazz Times.

"Bell's playing is lithe and energetic, her lines unspooling with ease. But she's also an improvisational shapeshifter."

- Downbeat 'Editors Pick'

"Bell flaunts prodigious chops on both C flute and alto flute though her pen might be mightier than her sword. Her originals all reveal a wide harmonic palette, a sophisticated rhythmic sensibility and a refined sense of dynamics, along with an urge to swing." 

- Downbeat

“Bell’s playing on C and alto flute is gorgeous, filled with light and air on the ballads, briskly inventive on her bop-tinged improvisations."

- Los Angeles Times

"One of the finest virtuoso flutists of our time.'

- Latin Jazz Network

Virtuoso LORI BELL Pays Homage to Musical Titan JOE HENDERSON

Releasing April 19, 'Recorda Me' Reimagines 8 Henderson Classics Including 60s Era Groundbreakers "Isotope," "Serenity," "Inner Urge," "Punjab," and "A Shade of Jade"

Features Josh Nelson (Piano), David Robaire (Bass), Dan Schnelle (Drums) 

“San Diego, CA: Accomplished arranger, virtuoso musician and esteemed educator, Lori Bell returns April 19th with Recorda Me: Remembering Joe Henderson, an extraordinary new collection paying homage to one of the all-time greats, hard bop, jazz icon, Joe Henderson.

Portuguese for "Remember Me," the 9-song, Recorda Me: Remembering Joe Henderson showcases Bell at her enchanting best, one that the LA Times has dubbed "briskly inventive...gorgeous playing" while Downbeat describes her as "an improvisational shapeshifter."

"Joe was an exceptional jazz saxophonist and to my heart and mind, a persuasive composer besides. I've always admired his artistry and the way he crafted his songs. His unique chord progressions, and use of the major 7th #11 on several tunes are compelling to me," offered Bell.

Of the eight compositions Bell chose to honor, all but one are from Henderson's mid 60s output, including the title track and "Out of the Night," both from Henderson's debut album, Page One (1963). Also included are two songs from Henderson's bewitching third album In 'n Out ("Punjab," "Serenity"), a pair of spellbinders from his 1966 Inner Urge opus ("Inner Urge," "Isotope"), "A Shade of Jade," the beguiling lead cut from his universally acclaimed release, Mode for Joe and "Black Narcissus," from the 1977 album of the same name.

"On this recording I have tried to pay homage to his musical acumen and articulate imagination. Each arrangement is tailored for the timbre and range of the flute, an unusual instrument to represent Joe Henderson as, unlike the majority of sax players, he rarely played it in public and was not known as a doubter," said Bell.

Transposing saxophone to flute provided a welcome challenge while allowing Bell to imbue the arrangements with her own sense of artistry. "The process of working with his material began with Serenity, a 4/4 swing time that I couldn't get out of head as a 6/4 afro groove, so I went with the idea. While spending hours at the piano and flute studying his various pieces, I realized I might want to record an entire album of Henderson compositions."

The lone original on Recorda Me is Bell's "Outer Urge," a knowing nod and apt complement to Henderson's 12-minute astral projection on "Inner Urge." On "Outer Urge," Bell flavors the excursion with her love of Latin modalities. It's an exhilarating journey and one she's explored before with her Music of Djavan on the Resonance Records label.

With a father that was a big band lead trumpeter in NYC for 30 years and a mother that played accordion with a great ear for both jazz and classical music, the Brooklyn native was exposed to the alchemy of improvisation by pillars of the golden era of jazz at places throughout Greenwich Village and lower Manhattan. Over the past several decades, she's carried the torch forward, establishing herself as an in-demand, world-class performer regularly touring the Western U.S. while also leading seminars and Masterclasses in NYC and beyond.

Accompanying her on her musical journey navigating the majesty of Henderson are pianist Josh Nelson, known for his work with John Pizzarelli, Peter Erskine and Natalie Cole, bassist David Robaire (Larry Goldings, Billy Childs, Jane Monheit), and drummer Dan Schnelle (David Benoit, Karrin Allyson, Billy Childs).

Bell will honor Joe's lasting legacy throughout the spring with shows throughout California including four hometown shows in San Diego, February 8th - June 28, an April 25th date at Sam First in Los Angeles and a very special concert at The Joe Henderson Lab at SF Jazz in San Francisco on Saturday, April 20. The 4/20 show is a part of the annual Joe Henderson Festival to celebrate Henderson's April 24th date of birth and his love of the city where he resided after leaving NYC in the early 70s, even teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for a stretch.

About the songs:

Isotope - Deconstructed blues. Very conversational between the flute and the piano, full of interplay.

A Shade of Jade - Originally composed as a swing tune reimagined as a samba/swing idea.

Out of the Night - Minor blues which features an arranged piano intro with a featured bass solo.

Serenity - Originally a swing tune reimagined as an afro-groove in 6/4.

Inner Urge - Beings with flute and drums with a knowing nod to hip hop.

Black Narcissus - Original intro for piano and features the alto flute.

Outer Urge (L. Bell) - Unique 4/4, 7/4, then in 5. Solo section in 5/4, Latin flavoring.

Punjab - Freestyle introduction adding reharmonizing using major 7#5 chords.

Recorda Me - Re-harmonized concept using original bass line. Features a moving chord progression with the solos featuring Joe's original chord changes.

Here’s an itinerary of Lori’s upcoming gigs promoting the new CD and you can locate the list of musicians accompanying her by going to her website.

3/15 – San Diego, CA – Golden Island

4/20 – San Francisco, CA – The Joe Henderson Lab (SF Jazz) [LP Release]

4/25 – Los Angeles, CA – Sam First

4/28 – San Diego, CA – Tio Leo’s

5/23 – Temecula, CA – The Merc

6/28 – La Jolla, CA – La Jolla Community Center (Fourth Friday Jazz Series)

7/06 – Paso Robles, CA – Libretto

Recordings which exhibit this level of musicianship don’t come along very often so you might want to do yourself a favor and snap up a copy and if you are in the neighborhood for any of the above concerts, go out and support Jazz in performance and share with Lori how much you enjoyed listening to it.

1 comment:

  1. I’ve long admired Lori’s playing and cannot wait to own and listen to the CD! Jan


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