JAM, XV: Joe Henderson on "On The Trail"

Every weekday this month I'll be posting new content in observance of Jazz Appreciation Month (J.A.M.), so-designated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History beginning in 2001. International Jazz Day, so-designated by UNESCO in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is on the last day of April, the 30th; it was first celebrated in 2012. Debating the relative merits of designating specific days or months for celebrating heritages, traditions, and the like aside, Jazz Appreciation Month is at the very least an excuse to dig into some material that I've been interested in for a while on the blog. 

Friday's installment featured excerpts from Andrew Nathaniel White III's TRANE 'n ME, a multi-purpose text on John Coltrane. Tomorrow's will feature Joe stretching out over rhythm changes.

†If you enjoy the content on this blog, please consider supporting my band's homegrown effort to get our record through the final stages of mastering and production. It's all recorded—you can listen to it now!—but we just need a bit more help to get to the finish line. We appreciate it. </self-promotion over>

* * * * *

Joe Henderson and the Wynton Kelly Trio – Live in '68
Joe, P.C., Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly (not pictured) at Left Bank Jazz Society, '68

If you woke me up in the middle of the night with a gun to my temple and demanded to know the greatest Joe Henderson solo of all time, I'd bet on this one: "On the Trail," from Four!, recorded live with the Wynton Kelly trio on this day back in 1968.

Joe is unstoppable on these 21 choruses—just idea after idea after idea. As Jimmy Cobb recalls, this was the first time Henderson played with the trio:
They [Left Bank Jazz Society] liked the trio down there and occasionally they would call us, maybe a couple of times a year. We'd go down and do it. I remember it being a lot of fun. People used to come and bring food and just set there and picnic and listen to music. Periodically the Wynton Kelly Trio would have a saxophone player. That's what they liked. [One date,] we had a saxophone player named Harold Vick; another date with George Coleman, and another date with Hank Mobley. This time we just had Joe. He was thrilled to play with the trio, because at the time we were pretty good. He was just introduced to us; he had never played with us before.
All of '60s Joe is classic, but to hear him stretch out over standard changes in a live setting is something else. The influence of Coltrane is apparent, particularly with the octave-displaced material in the tenth ('Jth') chorus, which is some stuff I haven't heard Joe play much on any other recording, but so too is the deep influence of Bird on such a simple tune as this one. And the quotes: a glimpse of "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Without a Song" (which he'd just recorded the August before on The Kicker), and "Come All Ye Faithful" (thanks to Miles Okazaki for pointing this obvious one out). 

I'll be speaking more about this solo at Friday's guided listening session/talk, so I'll just leave it at that for now. Enjoy:
Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 1

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 2

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 3

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 4

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 5

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 6

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 7

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 8

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 9

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 10

Joe Henderson Solo Transcription - "On The Trail" (Bb) 11



  1. Great blog! Do you mind sharing the source of the Jimmy Cobb quote? I would love to read more if it is publicly available. Thanks!

    1. Hey Tim,

      Thanks for reading. I lifted the Cobb quote from the liner notes of "Straight No Chaser," the companion release to "Four!" I didn't have access to the liner notes to "Four!," but I'd imagine there'd be more info there as well.


Post a Comment