• Great Live Moments - Joe Henderson (1937-2001)

    July 15, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Born and raised in Lima (LYE-ma), Ohio, the saxophonist Joe Henderson was the thirteenth of 15 children. The oldest living sibling is Troye Henderson, born in 1924. We reached out to brother Troye to ask permission to share "Recordame" from the WBGO archive with you, and to ask about Joe.

    When Joe - very very young at the time - was learning the saxophone, Troye played his recording of "DB Blues" by Lester Young, and told Joe to learn the first three notes and when he knew them, learn the next three. Joe became so good that - when Stan Kenton's and Lionel Hampton's big bands came through Lima - family members took Joe (underage) to the shows, and the leaders invited him onstage. Joe called Troye his mentor, and Troye was a lifelong fan who would jump in his car and drive across state lines to hear him.

    After the Army, Joe Henderson lived in San Francisco, close to San Francisco State University. Saxophonist Andrew Speight (SPITE) - now on the faculty there - says that, though not formally affiliated with SFSU, Henderson taught lots of people in the Bay Area and had the respect of all musicians. When he passed, people "grabbed and secured his stuff," so that it would not be lost to jazz history.

    Andrew and others at SFSU are setting up a home for the collection, the Joe Henderson Institute. They hope to find a qualified grad student who will organize the music manuscripts, many many tapes of practice sessions and gigs ("live bootlegs") that Joe recorded, released records, awards, and other people's manuscripts of Joe's playing. It's a long process, slowly beginning.

    The Institute will be part of the Generations Project, under the umbrella of the International Center for the Arts at SFSU. The Project also holds hours of SFSU video of the late pianist Ronnie Mathews (1935-2008), who was involved - along with drummer Jimmy Cobb - in studying group creativity.

    Players like Henderson, Mathews and Cobb came up playing a lot of gigs in a lot of great bands with distinctive group sounds. In a split second, the musicians would negotiate questions - right there on the bandstand, creatively, through their music - not as stars but as .. brothers is the word that comes to mind. Brother Troye says when the Joe Henderson Institute is finally open for business that, just as he did when Joe was alive, he'll drive from Ohio to California to be there!

    Listen to Joe's "Recordame" with Curtis Fuller, Fred Hersch, Marc Johnson, Roy Haynes. 

    Becca Pulliam

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