Eddie Henderson – Shuffle and Deal – Smoke Sessions Records #SSR-2005 – 59:04 – ****1/2
(Eddie Henderson – trumpet; Donald Harrison – alto sax; Kenny Barron – piano; Gerald Cannon – bass; Mike Clark – drums)
As trumpeter, Eddie Henderson, approaches his 80thbirthday, his playing remains strong and vibrant. His career has spanned five decades, both as a leader and first call sideman. It’s an extra special treat when Eddie is joined by an all-star band befitting his status as a true trumpet stalwart. Such is the case with his new Smoke Sessions CD, Shuffle and Deal. Eddie’s quintet is simply all aces.
His quintet includes altoist, Donald Harrison, who Eddie shares the front line with on the super hard bop group, The Cookers. Pianist, Kenny Barron needs no introduction to anyone who has followed jazz in most any fashion during their lifetime. Bassist, Gerald Cannon, is the”baby” of the group at “only” 62 years old. He came up with the Harper Brothers, and for many years with trumpeter, Roy Hargrove. Drummer, Mike Clark, is known for his funk bona fides, for time spent with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, but he fits in fine here, especially with both his brushwork and cymbals accompaniment.
The CD gets off immediately with a winning groove with the title track. You would think that you had gone back to the golden Blue Note days of the 1960s, as its themes drip with hard bop grease. Eddie and Donald blend so well together, and Barron provides blues choruses that set a feel good mood. Kenny’s “Flight Path” follows, and its an assertive uptick. Henderson throws out rapid fire notes, with a firing range intensity. Harrison gets some edgy time in, bringing to mind Jackie McLean. Mike Clark pushes the cats along.
“Over the Rainbow” is a perfect vehicle (the first of several ballads) for a lyrical trumpeter like Eddie. He caresses the melody of this most well known standard, adding slurs to enhance the emotion that this song elicits. “By Any Means” was written by Eddie’s daughter, Cava Menzies. It’s a short and sweet halting blues. Kenny’s “Cook’s Bay” sets a tropical mood with its lilting melody, a great ensemble blend, and accents provided by Barron.
“Boom” from Eddie’s wife (we have a real family affair here..), Natsuko, is much like the title track with another solid groove. Kenny’s choruses are so joyful, and the horns blend perfectly. Billie Holiday’s classic, “God Bless the Child” has a Sunday morning gospel feel, and Harrison’s alto melts like warm butter over maple syrup infused pancakes. Donald’s “Burnin” certainly does, as it’s a uptempo fully amped energy workout, with Clark’s snapping cymbals, and the “H” brothers romping.
The CD is closed with Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” done as a duo with just Henderson and Barron exploring the familiar theme, both reflective and comforting.
All in all, this is a superb winning effort, showing that jazz masters like these are ever so dependable in bringing jazz, that both moves and brings contentment, that is needed so much in these turbulent times.
Shuffle and Deal
Over the Rainbow
By Any Means
It Might as Well Be Spring
God Bless the Child