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Joe Henderson’s ‘Power To The People’ Returns To Vinyl After 50 Years

Out on March 15, the 1969 hard-bop classic is the latest release in Jazz Dispensary’s acclaimed ‘Top Shelf’ reissue series.

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Joe Henderson 'Power To The People' cover artwork courtesy of Craft Recordings

Craft Recordings and Jazz Dispensary are set to issue a wide vinyl release of Joe Henderson’s 1969 classic, Power To The People, for the first time in over 50 years.

Blending a socially conscious spirit with hard bop, jazz-funk, and electronic elements, the album finds the saxophonist entering a new creative dimension, as he performs such originals as “Isotope,” “Afro-Centric” and the first recording of his classic “Black Narcissus,” alongside such legends as Herbie Hancock (piano, Fender Rhodes), Ron Carter (electric and acoustic bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), and Mike Lawrence (trumpet).

The latest title in Jazz Dispensary’s acclaimed Top Shelf series, Power To The People was cut from the original tapes (AAA) by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and has been pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI. The LP is housed in a gatefold tip-on jacket, replicating the album’s original packaging on Milestone Records. Power To The People will be out on March 15.

During his four-decade-long career, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson (1937–2001) was a prolific leader and a sought-after sideman who played alongside the biggest names in jazz, including Herbie Hancock, Kenny Dorham, Chick Corea, and Alice Coltrane. A virtuosic talent, Henderson began his professional career in Detroit while attending college. After a two-year stint in the Army, the horn player relocated to New York, where he quickly made a name for himself, performing on dozens of sessions for Blue Note Records, including those for Hancock, Horace Silver, Andrew Hill, and Lee Morgan.

Joe Henderson - Power to the People - Jazz Dispensary/Top Shelf Reissue (Official Trailer)

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As a band leader, meanwhile, Henderson stood out from his peers, thanks to an eclectic sound that frequently incorporated elements of avant-garde, Latin, and R&B. That versatile and adventurous spirit caught the attention of Orrin Keepnews, who signed the saxophonist to Milestone Records. Under the fledgling jazz label, Henderson took his career—and his sound—to the next level. 1969’s Power To The People, which marked Henderson’s third album for Milestone, exemplified this era of unbridled creativity.

“You can’t ask much more of a recording than that it presents a major voice in great form, with a wonderfully sympathetic context,” wrote DownBeat columnist Alan Heineman in his original liner notes. “[Henderson] is one of those very rare artists possessed of both fire and ice—emotional depth and a strong shaping intellect…He can reach way into you because he has first reached into himself.”

Henderson expresses the full breadth of his capabilities in the album’s seven tracks—from the delicate balladry of opener “Black Narcissus” to the raw power of “Power to the People.” The 1969 LP also finds Henderson making his foray into electronic instrumentation, including a Fender Rhodes—played with soul by Hancock on the above-mentioned titles, as well as on the up-tempo “Afro-Centric.”

There are also a variety of acoustic performances, including the Ron Carter-penned “Opus One-Point-Five.” Heineman notes that Henderson’s work on the reflective track is particularly impressive, as the saxophonist keeps listeners on their toes. “His second solo is spiritually audacious: a tightrope walk between lyricism and tightly coiled, barely suppressed aggressiveness. One slip in either direction and the other mode will ring false as hell. Joe doesn’t slip.”

Another highlight is the fully improvised “Foresight and Afterthought.” The bluesy, seven-and-a-half-minute-long “impromptu suite in three movements” showcases the uncanny interconnectivity of Henderson, Carter, and DeJohnette in a trio setting. The saxophonist also revisits his popular track “Isotope,” which first appeared on his 1964 album, Inner Urge, and interprets one standard: Moross/Latouche’s “Lazy Afternoon.”

Nearly 55 years after its release, Power To The People still sounds as fresh as ever and remains a testament to Henderson’s talents as a composer, bandleader, and saxophonist. In the decades since its release, the album has only continued to grow in stature. In retrospective reviews, PopMatters declared the record to be “A strong reminder of a player who never faltered,” while AllMusic noted that the album “has quite a few classic moments.”

Pre-order Power To The People.

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