Monday, August 16, 2010
Spiritual Jazz Obsession: Joe Henderson Featuring Alice Coltrane- The Elements (1973)
There's a lot about this album to make it special... not the least of which is that it features Alice Coltrane in a rare role as a sideman, on harp and piano. What else? Henderson's tenor is in the finest of forms (as it always is, including on Pete LaRoca's superb album Basra, featured here), trafficking in the kind of free-skronky, spiritually wild, high inspiration that Pharoah Sanders found on Alice Coltrane's Journey In Satchidananda (my favorite jazz record, probably).
Each track is named after and based thematically on one of the four elements, and for once a basic and often mediocre idea is executed in such a universal and inspired way that it really clicks, not just musically but also conceptually. The track "Water," an obvious highlight, finds Henderson treating his sax with a thrillingly mercurial effect, resulting in the aural impression of a saxophone being played under, through, or with water. It's delightful, but also fiercely experimental in the spiritual vein. This is one of the arguments for the incredible value of this period in time for spiritual jazz. This is one of the best records of its ilk. This is Jazz happening to the Universe! Brothers, this is the sound of Jazz Mattering.