State of the Tenor - Joe Henderson

Stella By Starlight
For me, there aren't really any versions of Stella by Starlight that compare with Miles' Cookin' at the Plugged Nickel in '65, but that's not to say Joe Henderson's read of Stella on the seminal State of the Tenor album doesn't have it's own merits. The rhythm section (Ron Carter and Al Foster) work here may not be as adventurous as Carter with Williams & Hancock, but it's Henderson who really carries this one anyway with his strident, effortless blowing. Punctuated with dense flurries, and the periodic high wail or guttural multiphonic, Joe's solo mostly sails over the changes with a certain continuity that points out the fundamental differences in his approach and that of Miles. Henderson (along with most of the rest of the world, apart from 60's Mingus & Dolphy groups and Rollins, Ware and Elvin Jones (in particular) evoke a much deeper sense of funky, soulful groove and outright wailing swing. The recording of Henderson and Co. here seems much more restrained - not tentative by any means, but just dialed back a few notches. Still technically brilliant and harmonically deft, but just not as raw or fiery as Sonny's trio at the Vanguard. Perhaps a sign of the times - or perhaps an unintended commentary on the State of the Tenor - and State of the Trio - in 1985...

The State Of The Tenor Live At The Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (Blue Note CDP 7 46296-2)
"Village Vanguard", NYC
1st set, November 15, 1985

The Real McCoy - McCoy Tyner

Passion Dance
After the exquisite, deftly constructed melody statement of the tune's head, opening solo is a tour de force, and a study in Tyner's unique vocabulary of the late sixties (often imitated, never duplicated, as the saying goes): the dazzling, crystalline runs, the brilliant harmonic permutations, and (of course) the signature voicings. Not dissimilar to much of his late work with the quartet - it's very reminiscent of his playing on - it's great to hear on this recording, on which McCoy doesn't seem to be really straining to rise above the volume or density. bass seems to add a bit of extra buoyancy to the groove, keeping the tune swinging along without the full measure of freight train intensity of the Coltrane quartet.

solo is truly inspired, making great use of multiphonics and deft modulations in his fragmented pattern runs. It's a succinct solo that's clearly standing in the long shadow of (which had been evident in Henderson's playing prior to this date). As the tunes fades out, Joe really lets go with some upper register, spiraling lines while McCoy hammers out intricate lines of his own simultaneously. A perfect end to a timeless tune, that leaves one feeling it hasn't really ended, but continues on eternally - and that you've just experienced a glimpse through Tyner & Co's astute vision into the beautiful dreamscape of a cosmic dance.

(Blue Note BLP 4264)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 21, 1967