Joe Henderson – Canyon Lady (1975)

joe henderson

Joe Henderson
Canyon Lady
1975 Milestone Records

A1 Tres Palabras 10:11
A2 Las Palmas 9:54
B1 Canyon Lady 9:07
B2 All Things Considered 8:38

Recorded in October 1973 in Berkeley, California, at Fantasy Studios
Originally released in 1975 as Milestone M-9057

Congas – Francisco Aguabella , Victor Pantoja
Drums – Eric Gravatt
Engineer – Jim Stern
Flute – Hadley Caliman (tracks: A1, B1-2) , Ray Pizzi (tracks: A1) , Vincent Denham (tracks: A1)
Piano – Mark Levine (tracks: A1, B1-2)
Electric Piano – George Duke (tracks: A1-B1)
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Henderson
Timbales – Carmelo Garcia
Trombone – Julian Priester (tracks: A1, B1-2) , Nicholaas TenBroek (tracks: A1)
Trumpet – John Hunt (tracks: A1) , Luis Gasca (tracks: A2-B2) , Oscar Brashear (tracks: A1, B1-2)

Produced by Orrin Keepnews

joe henderson
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The first album I ever heard by Joe Henderson was “Inner Urge” and I wondered why I had never listened to him before. With Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner on loan from Coltrane, and Bob Cranshaw holding down the double-bass, the record just blew me away. Thereafter I took it upon myself to seek out his other Blue Note recordings and continued to find myself consistently enjoying them. It was a long time, however, before I began paying attention to his Milestone albums, like the one featured here.

For a person who had such a long career, Henderson is one of the most underrated jazz musicians of his generation. In some ways this is understandable — although he has released plenty of material, in terms of recorded output he was much less prolific than many of his peers, at times taking breaks of two years or more between releases. It is particularly unfortunate that the Milestone albums are still overlooked, with the majority of them not seeing a release on CD until the 1994 boxset titled, appropriately enough “The Milestone Years.” For most of that material, the box is the only legitimate release in the digital realm, with the individual albums still never having been issued as separated compact discs, making them accessible only to those willing to invest in a hefty boxset. A few exceptions were issued as part of the Fantasy’s ‘Original Jazz Classics’ series, which includes this set recorded in San Francisco in 1973 and released two years later as “Canyon Lady.” Less experimental than most of his other early-70s material, it is an intriguing mixture of Latin and soul jazz topped with Henderson’s passionate tenor sax. The configurations of musicians are stellar and feature arrangements by Luis Gasca who also contributes trumpet as well as a handful of other instruments like flugelhorn and assorted percussion. George Duke features on electric piano on some of the album, and tight grooves are underscored by the congeros Victor Pantoja and Francisco Aguabela and timbale player Carmelo Garcia. Pianist Mark Levine is prominent throughout and also contributes half the compositions on the album.

The album didn’t grab me right away, starting out rather slowly with the heavily-orchestrated “Tres Palabras” which builds into a more sweeping, gripping crescendo about two thirds of the way through. The following number “Las Palmas,” the only Henderson original here, quickly picks up the pace and kicks the album into high gear. Ten minutes of riffing in an angular 6/8 time signature, it is the most “out” that this record gets and it is pure joy to listen to. The second half of the album does not disappoint either. Levine’s compositions veer towards a more mainstream Latin jazz sound, but punctuated with trippy electric piano by George Duke and Henderson’s ability to be both rough and sensual simultaneously, it never gets boring. The final cut features an all-out percussion jam at the five minute mark that goes on for nearly three minutes before leading into the final choruses that close the album. Production-wise the record has a slickness very much in the style of CTI Records so popular at the time, and while this can often be a shortcoming in that label’s stable of artists, this album somehow avoids the sterility endemic to Creed Taylor’s production skills. This may not be the most adventurous place to dip into Henderson’s Milestone period, but it is not a bad place to start nonetheless.

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6 Comments

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  2. I'm looking forward to this one. Thanks for the post!

  3. Neat (and less obvious) choice from Joe's Milestone years. Gasca was a total character, and Joe played on some of his albums — Little Giant has some hot cuts on it. I believe the box set has a bonus from these sessions, the totally crazy "in the beginning there was africa." I'd be happy to upload if you need it.

  4. Muito, muito bom! (Very, very nice!)

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