Joe Henderson
Kozmigroov Albums
Power To The People [Milestone, 1969]
If You're Not Part of the Solution, You're Part of the Problem [Milestone, 1970]
In Pursuit of Blackness [Milestone, 1971]
In Japan [Milestone, 1973 (recorded in 1971)]
Black Is The Color [Milestone, 1972]
Multiple [Milestone, 1973]
The Elements [Milestone, 1974]
Canyon Lady [Milestone, 1975]
Black Narcissus [Milestone, 1976]
Black Miracle [Milestone, 1977]
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Power to the People: the first use of electric bass & electric piano (Ron Carter, natch; DeJohnette rounds out the rhythm section, Herbie on pianer, Mike Lawrence on trumpet) on the first two cuts.  Great propulsive bass riffs, Henderson's amazing searching & soaring solo lines-- definitely under the influence of this era Miles, but more fiery at times than Miles' (& Donald Byrd's) '69 work. Still very post/abstract bop on the b-side, but as the title implies, slightly more populist than the first two albums.

At the Lighthouse (aka "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem"): that place must've been magic back in the day-- Lee Morgan, Grant Green-- seems like everyone kicked ass really hard on Hermosa Beach.  Fired up performances of the post-bop variety, aided & abetted by the godlike Woody Shaw; boxset includes 3 extra cuts (~25 minutes), & the first two pieces from In Pursuit of Blackness are from the same shows, so Bob at least kinda has an idea of the sound.  All acoustic.

The first two cuts from In Pursuit of Blackness are from the Lighthouse gigs; the final three cuts feature a completely different lineup, including some flute & bass clarinet from Pete Yellin and George Cables on electric piano.  Hard to describe how great this music is, but still not quite the apex of high.  Henderson = pure genius.

Joe Henderson in Japan was recorded live at the Junk Club w/three Japanese musicians, Henderson is in top form for a more old school set than the electric stabs on IPoB and PttP; there is an electric piano in effect, though.  "Junk Blues" is an utterly stonking quarter hour of music, w/Henderson working the bleating multiphonics like nobody's bidness.

Black is the Color (of My True Love's Mind): the holy effin' grail of this era.  Core tracks recorded by Cables, Holland, & DeJohnette, then extensively overdubbing, including David Horowitz' synthesizer, George Wadenius' electric guitar, Airto's percussion, & even a turn from DeJohnette on electric piano.  From the opening cut, the 12 minute "Terra Firma", you know you've died & gone to Kozmigroov heaven.  Very similar to Miles of this era in terms of sonic overload, but more intricate & complex overall.  But it grooves like a motherfucker, too!  Great beyond words.  "Vis-a-Vis" is the only straight cut (no overdubs), but it just serves to nicely link to the past & show what a smoking session they had to play w/in the studio! "Foregone Conclusion" is a nice hard funk cut, intensely soulful, that quickly heads out into the stratosphere w/distorto-sax & electrobleepage aplenty.  "Black is the Color" is a pretty, layered ballad w/plenty of intense peaks; but proves to be the calm before the storm that is "Current Events".  It starts w/some spooky electronic atmospherics & rain jungle percussion, some excellent quizzical bass soloing from Holland plays against the increasingly wild analog synth washes & pans, then Henderson comes in echoing & raging & everyone plays beautifully off of each other up to several stunningly wild finales.  One of the peak musical events of my life.

Multiple, sounding more afrocentric & groovier (kind of a la McCoy Tyner), still w/the overdubbing (Henderson overdubs flutes, soprano sax, extra tenor, & non-cheesy chanting/droning; James "Blood" Ulmer & John Thomas do guitar overdubs on a cut apiece); though the basic cuts are kozmigroovy enough, what w/Larry Willis electric piano/ring modulator/echoplex & the extra percussionist.  Holland & DeJohnette, the Gateway gang, again hold down the very funky rhythm.  An excellent record, wild & groovy across the board; listening to it again, I'd almost have to put it right alongside Black is the Color....  "Bwaata" is painfully beautiful.

Canyon Lady, the "latin" album, but still in the zone we know & love.  Two different large ensemble lineups w/conga & timbales in both.  A definite change of pace (no overdubs, just a smattering of electric piano), but still quite lovely & propulsivesly danceable.  Henderson sears as always, & it's nice to hear him in a more straight-ahead bag here.  The lovely title cut could almost come from the classic Horace Silver lineup to which Henderson contributed.  "Las Palmas" starts w/some electronic ambience from, presumably, George Duke before kicking into a driving groove, & is the most winningly thislisty cut of the session.  Another great album.

[the boxset then throws in a bonus cut from this session, "In the Beginning, There Was Africa", w/kicking polyrhythmic drums underpinning one of Henderson's more massive solos-- similar in kind to Archie Shepp's mind-melting "Magic of Ju-Ju"]

The Elements w/Alice Coltrane & Charlie Haden. Just like the Third Ear Band's excellent record, the cuts here are "Earth", "Air", "Fire", & "Water".  "Water" made it onto Jazz Satellites and is one of the highlights of that comp.  An awesome concept record, amazing instrumental coloration (Al on piano, harp, tamboura & harmonium, Michael White on violin, & Baba Duru Oshun on tabla & percussion, & of course Henderson's effects-saturated horn).  "Earth" is as slinky-assed & dangerous as anything the ol' Dark Magus was up to during this period. Yes, you need this; so "higher mind" it hurts.

[here the boxset throws us four trax from Flora Purim's Butterfly Dreams, w/nice aetherial/rainforest synths from George Duke-- really great stuff! Props to bassist Stanley Clarke, who outdoes himself on these, providing the arrangements as well as the buzzing, melting fretwork.  I suppose Flora's vocals could be considered an acquired taste, but I strongly suggest you acquire it, if only to get to this wonderful music]

Black Narcissus, the last blast of utter kozmigroov.  The first side & penultimate cut of the album features Dr. Patrick Gleeson of Sextant fame on the E-Mu polyphonic synth.  The title cut is an old standard of Henderson's, given the African Space Program going over.  "Hindsight & Forethought" is a too-brief slab of abstract echohorn & electronics; "Power to the People" comes back in extended, electrified magnificence.  "The Other Side of Right" is more straight ahead, but still out there; an echoing post-bop meltdown.  "Good Morning, Heartache" almost seems like a straight rendition, but for some odd, spacey touches courtesy Gleeson.  The final cut, "Amoeba", is another highwater mark; Henderson solos w/himself on overdubbed horn on a heavy funk number, throwing some Moog bass synth in for good measure.  A classic.

Black Miracle, something of a disappointment due to a slightly cheesy, overproduced sound (think CTI; overdubbed horn section & synth strings pushing the disco envelope) & a kinda disposable cover of "My Cherie Amour".  Depending on your tolerance for this kinda thing, it's still pretty fucking cool, w/over-the-top guitar breaks & funky overlaid George Duke action.  "Old Slippers" gives Deodato a run for his money; "Immaculate Deception" is a straight-ahead groover w/spacey touches; "Soulution" & the closing title cut are more on par w/the earlier stuff & also groove mightily, w/awesome freaky analog synth & guitar solos to boot.  P-funk fans take note! [JW]

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- Thomas

Multiple is absolutely excellent. Every tune, especially Tres-Cun-Deo-La; full of energy (I luv playing along to this). Black Is The Color is a great LP. Black Narcissus is coloured with some synth. effects and Black Miracle and Canyon Lady have their moments. The Elements opens with a great tune, with Michael White contributing as a significant member of the soundscape.

Black Miracale - I cannot agree with you on your judgment of the record. It is perhpas the best record by Joe Henderson. O.K., it did not get re-issued so far, and that might tell you something about the perception of this record in general. Since I am also into jazzy funk I like this record a lot. A real Bee-Bop Henderson alters the soomth sounds and the clear approach to the arrangements of George Duke, the latter also plays piano and synths under the alias Davili Conga.
[Jan Wollnik]