Trumpet Great Eddie Henderson Turns up a
Winning Hand with a Brilliant All-Star Quintet featuring
Kenny Barron, Donald Harrison, Gerald Cannon and Mike Clark
Released on the Eve of Henderson’s 80th Birthday,
Shuffle and Deal, Due Out July 31 on Smoke Sessions Records,
Balances Blistering Bop with Exquisite Ballads
It’s never been wise to bet against Eddie Henderson. Not that the trumpet great is a gambling man, despite what the jackpot ride and shades-masked poker face on the cover of his invigorating new album, Shuffle and Deal, might imply. “I play War, but that’s about it,” Henderson jokes. “I’m not sophisticated enough for more than ‘high card wins.’”
Henderson’s storied biography suggests otherwise. The son of a vocalist father and a mother who danced at the Cotton Club, young Eddie received his first trumpet lesson from Louis Armstrong. His parents’ coterie of friends included Miles Davis, who provided the fledgling trumpeter with some typically sharp-toned mentorship. Henderson’s own remarkable career has included tenures with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band along with his successful parallel life as a psychiatrist in the Bay Area.
Due out July 31 via Smoke Sessions Records, Shuffle and Deal finds Henderson turning over yet another winning hand. It doesn’t hurt that he arrived with four aces up his sleeve – namely, the members of his stellar quintet: pianist Kenny Barron, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Mike Clark. Add the leader into the mix and you end up with an unbeatable royal flush.
The album features a mix of familiar standards and original compositions by both Henderson’s musical and actual families – in addition to pieces by Barron and Harrison, the repertoire also includes pieces by the trumpeter’s wife Natsuko Henderson and his daughter, musician and educator Cava Menzies. The collection adds up to a blend of identities and voices that Henderson likes to refer to as a “collective portrait.”
Released just in time for Henderson’s landmark 80th birthday, Shuffle and Deal reveals a master at the height of his powers, able to unleash blistering, agile runs on bop burners as well as explore ballads with an exquisite fragility (yet more evidence that a lack of sophistication isn’t what’s keeping him away from the card table). If anything about this date looks backwards through the trumpeter’s eight-decade history, it’s not the vitality of the playing but the structure of the program, which keeps an engaged audience firmly in mind throughout.
“I want the audience to really feel the music and start moving,” Henderson insists. “Jazz started as dance music in the first place, so I want to bring that element back into the music. The telltale common denominator when people are really enjoying themselves is when they feel like they want to get up and dance. Not the European concept of listening to music, just sitting still and static, shushing people and politely clapping at the end of the tune. No! I thought it was supposed to be fun. That’s the way I grew up.”
That modesty, belied by the compelling beauty of his playing on Shuffle and Deal, is typical of Henderson, who has always preferred to keep his cards close to his chest. That doesn’t seem likely to change as the trumpet maestro turns 80. “That just happens to be another inch along the way,” he says. “I’m not close to finished. I feel like I’m just beginning.”
Eddie Henderson · Shuffle and Deal
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: July 31, 2020