Joe Henderson expands the vision on Mirror, Mirror…

Joe Henderson/Chick Corea etc. – Mirror, Mirror – MPS 0210998MSW – vinyl (1980) ***:

(Joe Henderson – tenor sax; Chick Corea – piano; Ron Carter – bass; Billy Higgins – drums)

Joe Henderson, the iconic jazz tenor saxist, covered all bases. He could be deeply in the groove as a key member of Horace Silver’s funky hard bop band, yet at home with free expression exploring abstract jazz. He led sophisticated large bands and earned a Grammy honoring Billy Strayhorn on his well-received album, Lush Life.  He was a reserved musician, never showy, and highly respected by his peers. He was inspired by John Coltrane and that influence is felt on this 1980 release, just reissued by MPS on vinyl.

Backed by three all-stars, Chick Corea, Ron Carter, and Billy Higgins, we find Joe in a complex harmonically advanced modal space exploring fellow band member’s compositions, as well as one of his own tunes, and the standard, “What’s New.”

Joe enters avant-garde space but does not venture so far as to alienate mainstream listeners. His composition, “Joe’s Bolero” goes out onto the ledge but is not a free dive as his bellowing tone takes on an almost Sephardic Middle Eastern vibe. It’s definitely a modal journey. “What’s New” is more familiar territory and features a Ron Carter-led framework. On the ballad, “Candlelight” we get to experience the emerging piano genius, Chick Corea, fully stretch out in a mood exploration. Billy Higgins has a welcome drum solo on Chick’s “Blues for Liebestraum.”

The remastered acoustics of this reissue do justice to the dense modal themes that Henderson and company bring to the listener on Mirror Mirror. It will take repeated listening sessions to fully appreciate Joe’s vision, however.

TrackList:

Side 1: Mirror, Mirror; Candlelight, Keystone
Side 2: Joe’s Bolero, What’s New, Blues for Liebestraum

—Jeff Krow