Trumpeting across the styles

Renowned jazz musician Eddie Henderson has no problem leapfrogging genre borders.

trumpet_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
By definition, as a jazz artist you have to know how to improvise. In Eddie Henderson’s case, that stretches beyond the boundaries of his chosen field of art.
Besides recording extensively and performing with some of the legendary figures of jazz, the 70- year-old trumpeter, who will perform at the Shablul club on June 2 and the Enav Center in Tel Aviv on June 4 (both 9 p.m.), developed a nice “side interest” as a family doctor after studying medicine at Harvard University. In fact, Henderson qualified as a psychiatrist but never put that side of his professional skills into breadwinning practice.
Henderson had the best possible start to his musical life, catching a lesson with iconic trumpeter Louis Armstrong at the age of nine, although he says he is not too sure that it left a lasting impression on him as a person or on his later musical development.
“I was too young for it to really register,” says Henderson.
However, another legendary trumpeter had more of a palpable influence on his career path.
Henderson’s family moved to San Francisco when he was 14 years old, and he studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 1954 to 1956. In 1956, when Henderson was 16, Miles Davis stayed at his home during a Black Hawk Jazz Club gig – Henderson’s stepfather was Davis’s doctor – and was impressed with the teenager’s ability to perform Davis’s famous “Sketches of Spain” work faultlessly, although he encouraged the youngster to carve out his own expressive niche. “I got so many things from Miles,” reflects Henderson. “There was his sound and style and an awareness of the importance of space.”
In 2001, some 10 years after Davis’s death, Henderson contributed to a tribute album called So What – named after the opening track of Davis’s 1959 milestone Kind of Blue album – and won rave reviews for his role.
One critic in particular lauded Henderson’s playing, calling him “a fearless improviser, whose sound can be either ethereal and enigmatic or exuberant and extroverted, dominates the proceedings without overshadowing the other members of the quintet’s considerable contributions.”
Henderson has directed his artistry through quite a number of stylistic channels over the years, playing bebop, avant-garde, Latin jazz and bluesy jazz with equal facility, and even venturing into somewhat extra-mural territory with groove-driven funk fusion escapades, such as his work with pianist Herbie Hancock on the 1971 release Mwandishi. The latter project was, in fact, a turning point in Henderson’s career as, prior to that, the trumpeter had devoted most of his time to his medical work, and music had taken something of a back seat.
Hancock actually acknowledged that side of Henderson’s career, calling him Mganga, which means “medicine man” in the language of the Bondei people of Tanzania.
While some may raise an eyebrow at Henderson’s eclectic approach, the trumpeter says he doesn’t see any problems with leapfrogging genre borders. “It’s really all just music to me, and I try to blend with whatever context I’m authentically,” he states.
Besides the two concerts, Henderson is coming here to record music written and arranged by Amit Golan, who died last year at age 46. Golan taught jazz at the Thelma Yallin Arts School and founded the jazz faculty at the Stricker Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for running a joint study program with the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York.
Henderson will be joined in the concerts and recording by New York-based pianists Jack Glottman and Yonatan Ricklis, saxophonist Assaf Yuria and trombonist Yonatan Volchuk, as well as local leading lights double bassist Gild Abro and drummer Shai Zelman
For tickets and more information about the concerts: Enav Center (03) 605-0605 and Shablul (03) 546-1981.