Joe Henderson

In Pursuit of Blackness

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The first 120 seconds or so of "Mind Over Matter" feature Joe Henderson, Stanley Clarke, and underground luminaries Lenny White (drums) and George Cables (keyboard) engaged in free-form, expressionist, abstract improv and then, in a short contained explosion, Henderson starts blowing his tenor like he's spitting out rounds of bullets from a gun. A torrent solo follows and, just when you think the song won't let up, in comes Curtis Fuller's trombone and then Pete Yellen's flute. The song ends with what almost sounds like the soundtrack to an absurd dream. It's a 13-minute tune broken up into suites and, although it may not be the album's best, it's possibly its most enthralling, and it typifies this album's place in Henderson's Milestone discography -- not his best, but enthralling. There are songs with nouveau-bop heads ("No Me Esqueca") and all-in burners ("A Shade of Jade"). Although the album is rhythm-heavy, it was recorded a couple years before Henderson's funk cloud would really thicken -- Joe was still swinging here ("Invitation"), which ain't so bad. Still, despite the obvious highlights, this undersold gem is a must-listen if only to check "Gazelle" (recorded live) and hear a head-nodding bassline from Ron McClure backing Henderson and Woody Shaw at their fieriest.

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