Mode for Joe
Sunday, July 18th, 2010
Growing up, Sundays have always been a special day for me. Over the last two years Sundays have become even more special because that's the day once a month VTY Jazz has their "Sunday Serenades" at the Bassline in Mount Vernon, NY. July 18th tribute to Joe Henderson entitled "Mode for Joe" was one if you weren't there you were in the wrong place. Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene and the young, but gifted trumpet of Bruce Harris fronted a powerful rhythm section of Essiet Essiet bass, Dion Parson drums and the solid piano work of Roy Assaf. I'm sure that even though I have no proof of it Joe Henderson was somewhere in the house loving every minute of what was taking place.

The quintet opened the afternoon off with the Joe Henderson original "The Kicker" and did they ever. Bruce took the opening solo and let everyone know that it was time to strike up the band. Jimmy's next solo was straight ahead and full of energy and sophistication. He definitely served notice that this tribute was very much one in which he was looking forward to. Roy's piano solo was alive and full of runs that you wondered where the next run was going to take you. After Essiet's brief solo and the trading of eights between Bruce, Jimmy, Roy and Dion it was Dion's turn and his solo was on fire. The next tune was "Recorda Me" which was also released on his debut release under the name "No Me Esqueca." This Bossa Nova feeling tune had Jimmy reminding everyone that Joe Henderson was very much evident in his playing. Bruce Harris solo might have been his best of the afternoon. He definitely has some chops and knows something about the Hard-Bop vocabulary. I can't say it enough, "the young man is a force to be reckoned with." Essiet's solo had him hitting the upper bout of the bass and then the strings and was full of percussion statements and accents. The tune was classic Joe Henderson and a joy to hear. They followed this with one of my favorite Joe Henderson compositions the dark and mysterious "Black Narcissus." This tune had Bruce on muted trumpet and Jimmy on soprano saxophone and they weaved their way through this beautiful piece. Just a marvelous piece of music full of sincerity and emotion. They then went into the "In ?N Out" recording of Joe Henderson for the gem entitled "Serenity." Jimmy's solo here was as swinging as it gets filled with jabs and punches and still maintaining that swing feel. Bruce's solo followed Jimmy and he just went all into it. This is a young man who lives and breathes Be-Bop. Roy took a brief solo before the group took it out. The group took the first set out with a spirited version of "Mo Joe." Jimmy's solo here had a rhythm section that was not going to let him go it alone. Then after a brief trading of fours with Jimmy, Bruce and Dion, Dion took an extensive solo that even Art Blakey would have marveled at. With a first set like that you wondered "what could this quintet follow that with."

It didn't take long to find out that they were going to take up where they left off, when they opened the second set with "Inner Urge." Jimmy"s opening solo was right down the middle. There was a time when he was screaming and honking and for a brief time exploring the outside of the compositions structure, but never loosing sight of where he was going. This tune found Bruce back on muted trumpet and his solo was extensive and with a lot of technique. I can't say it enough "his playing is amazing" for a cat his age." Roy's solo was another two handed gem that had all kinds of ideas. Essiet's solo was more like a conversation between him and Roy with each one answering one another. "The secret is to listen" and they both had their ears and feelings wide open. That is what makes this music so special, cats listening and exchanging their feelings with each other. "Punjab" was next and I'm sure Joe with his glasses getting fogged up and scratching his beard couldn't believe the precision and care the quintet was giving to his music. "Punjab" featured each and every member with thoughtful solos and you knew the cats were leaving it all on the bandstand. "Mode for Joe" was next and it seemed like everyone in the house was eagerly awaiting their interpretation. Jimmy's opening solo had the cat from Hartford feeling it. His forward and back motions while delivering as creative a solo as you're going to hear anywhere. It also told you all you needed to know, "that he was having a ball playing Joe's music." Bruce followed with another innovative solo that was bright and poetic. Roy's solo featured a sensitive right hand for openers and then finishing it out with both of his amazing hands all over the keyboard. Jimmy then announced that a good friend of his was in the audience and also a family member of VTY Jazz "Ray Blue." Jimmy called him up to the bandstand and they ended this amazing tribute with a blues, "Isotope." Their were so many highlights on this composition that space will not allow me to run them all down. All I can tell you that towards the end of this tune the three horns and Dion started off trading eights and finished off trading fours and the message was clearly delivered that Joe Henderson was alive and well.

In closing all I can say is "while the masses are Hipping and a Hopping to the so called music of the day I feel very privileged to be Hard-Bopping it to this great American art form called Jazz. During one of the worst times in this country's history when people are afraid to show any emotion and having their feelings be seen I'm glad that I'm able to understand what the world needs now is a lot more love. As Ray Blue said so beautifully at the end of this tribute to Joe Henderson "this music is a treasure and this concert marks another time in history." This music needs to be supported because if it's not the World will be in a lot worst shape and the sad thing about it they won't even realize it. No art, no country!
- Arnie Perez
Date Review Title
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