Joe Henderson – Barcelona- Enja 9203, 37:19 (Distr. By Allegro) ***:
(Joe Henderson – tenor sax; Wayne Darling – bass; Ed Soph – drums)
When Joe Henderson originally recorded these sides in 1977 and 1978 for Enja, he was not yet the star he was eventually to become. Up to that point, although he had been a leader of his own groups, and a sideman in other bands, each of which has resulted in critically acclaimed albums, his style was still evolving. This album was completed at an interesting point in Henderson’s career, and was his first excursion into the piano-less trio format.
This re-release under rubric of Enja Jazz Classics is welcomed, as this session had not been all that well received when first issued. Accompanied by two relatively unknown musicians, Wayne Darling on bass and Ed Soph on drums, Henderson takes a leap into what may be best described as free jazz, where there is an absence of an identifiable theme. The opening two tracks “Barcelona” and “Barcelona cont.” were recorded at Wichita State University and come in at just under 28 minutes. For the most part, the two compositions offer a complete and unfettered improvisation on tenor sax, full of squeaks, growls and lyricism. The support offered by Darling and Soph is quite remarkable as each player demonstrates phenomenal technique and provides the appropriate counterpoint to Henderson.
The next two compositions “Mediterranean Sun” and “Y Yo La Quiero” were recorded in a studio in Munich Germany, and were a duo effort with Henderson and Starling, and again this was the first foray into that format. Compared to the first two compositions, these two pieces are quite different, in that they are more accessible, as well as melodically and harmonically identifiable. Starling provides a strong bass line and consequently Henderson is tuneful and easily holds our interest.
The music on this disc is dense, and will certainly not be to everyone’s liking. However it is an interesting insight into where Henderson was headed musically in the next several years.
TrackList: Barcelona; Barcelona Cont.; Mediterranean Sun; Y Yo La Quiero.
— Pierre Giroux