Given the date of this release and the band lineup, one might assume that this is a straight-up hard-bop album. However, this 1966 Joe Henderson record–featuring trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Joe Chambers–is a great example of modern jazz at its best. Mode For Joe was recorded during a time of sweeping musical changes due to developments in free jazz, soul jazz, and even early experiments with fusion. It was a time when the bluesy and funky leanings of hard-boppers were giving way to more individualized contemporary approaches. One of the best examples of this shift, MODE FOR JOE sounds more like the experimental work of Branford Marsalis than the groovy musings of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
The last track on Mode For Joe, “Free Wheelin’,” is the only dyed-in-the-wool hard-bop tune heard here. Other than that, this outing’s mostly up-tempo songs serve as vehicles for solos. Henderson himself proves that the template for players such as Marsalis, Joe Lovano, and Joshua Redman was invented a generation earlier, as evidenced on “A Shade of Jade,” “Black,” and others, making this one of the sax legend’s most intriguing albums.
Personnel: Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone); Cedar Walton (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Joe Chambers (drums).
01. A Shade Of Jade
02. Mode For Joe
04. Caribbean Fire Dance
06. Free Wheelin’
07. Black (Alternate Take)