(Joe Henderson, tenor saxophone; Mike Lawrence, trumpet; Herbie Hancock, piano & electric piano; Ron Carter, acoustic & electric bass; Jack De Johnette, drums)
Joe Henderson’s, Power To The People is a thoughtful album, with many different shades and moods. It has an all-star band, with Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Mike Lawrence on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano and electric piano, Ron Carter on bass and electric bass, and Jack De Johnette on drums. They are all at their masterful, atmospheric best here in this classic album.
The first track, Black Narcissus, is a cerebral affair. The first half of the song is tightly structured. It fluctuates between muted, melodic playing, and crashing crescendos. The second half features contemplative swing by Henderson, and Hancock. Although all are amazing, Hancock’s minimal-note solos are exceptional.
Afro-Centric, is a much busier song. It has Carter flexing his muscles with awesome electric bass playing. He seems to let loose on the instrument, as if trying to see if the rest of the band can keep up. They do, of course, with more energetic playing that nears a bebop frenzy but backs off at the last second.
Opus One-Point Five, the third track, starts off with Henderson playing intelligently and confidently. For so many players, this kind of sustained playing would come off as posing, but for Henderson it is moody and even moving. The stately paced song starts to deconstruct itself around the 24 mark, and it is a pleasure to hear these musicians play at chaos while remaining in control the whole time.
Next up is Isotope, which explodes out of the gate. Carter’s locomotive walking bass is the engine of this exuberant song. His bass playing really gets to shine during the multiple times when the band puts on the breaks and allows him to take center stage. De Johnette’s crashing cymbal blasts over interplay between the melody players, gives the song a tremendous intensity.
The title track, Power To The People, is a Latin-tinged song, which features tremendous playing by De Johnette. The players really let loose on this take, letting their playing get a bit frenzied. The solos are strong and punctuated, with Hancock and Lawrence’s especially forceful. This madcap number may be the best on the album.
Lazy Afternoon, is, as one would assume, rather laid back. Carter plays more get walking bass, this time with less force and more cool. Hancock throws out slightly dissonant chords at Henderson as he plays, which just ups Henderson’s game even further. The interplay between them on this song is tremendous.
The final track, Foresight and Afterthought (an impromptu suite), is an astonishing song. It starts with Henderson playing like dynamite just about to explode, and when he finally does, De Johnette erupts right along with him. The song almost runs of control, until Henderson reigns it back in from madness. The band plays a quiet flurry of notes and then briefly goes silent. Carter’s bass emerges from the stillness and begins to create an obvious building. The track then builds up steam again and finally runs wild as the album ends. Power To The People is a great album that is highly, highly recommended. It is esthetically united and very moving, and there is no higher praise than that.
TrackList: Black Narcissus, Afro-Centric, Opus One-Point-Five, Isotope, Power To The People, Lazy Afternoon, Foresight and Afterthought (an impromptu suite)
– Ethan Krow