Eddie Henderson - Witness to History

Album of the Week, 09-26-23

Eddie Henderson – Witness to History
Smoke Session Records

Few individuals have led three different talented lives as the octogenarian jazz trumpeter Eddie Henderson, a practicing physician, a championship figure skater earlier in life, and a five-decade-plus career in jazz that began under the tutelage of Louis Armstrong.

We will learn more from the pending documentary Dr. Eddie Henderson: Uncommon Genius due on PBS in 2024.  In any case, making the documentary has caused Henderson to take a career perspective and the resulting Witness to History is a much more dynamic and varied album than his two previous finely crafted Smoke Session releases, 2018’s Be Cool and 2022’s Shuffle and Deal (covered here).

Henderson has indeed been a witness to the burgeoning movement of jazz from the ‘50s through the ‘70s that exposed him to greats such as Miles, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little, Woody Shaw, and even Coltrane. One of Henderson’s more famous stints was as part of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi ensemble in the early seventies. It’s across this kind of backdrop that the album unfolds.

The album comes fifty years after his debut, 1973’s Realization and features lifelong collaborator, pianist George Cables, fellow frontliner in The Cookers, NEA Jazz Master Donald “Chief” Harrison on alto, and frequent band member, bassist Gerald Cannon. Drummer Lenny White, who hasn’t recorded with Henderson since that debut, anchors the quintet.

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Each week, WDNA music director, Michael Valentine shares his album of the week. Michael’s picks often focus on new jazz releases, but sometimes dip into history with notable and classic releases worth revisiting.

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