Joe Henderson: Milestones
Joe Henderson (tenor sax)
So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles) (Verve 314517674-2)
Composed by Miles Davis.
Recorded: New York, October 12-14, 1992
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Joe Henderson was never more popular than during his Verve years of the '90s, with his well-received tributes to Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. For the Davis project, the always inquisitive Henderson did not go for the obvious choices, instead selecting rarely covered pieces such as "Teo," "Swing Spring," "Side Car" and "Milestones." No, not the totally different "Milestones" of 1958 – this was instead Miles's composition from the very first recording session he ever led, in 1947, with Charlie Parker on tenor. Miles later reworked the 1947 "Milestones" for a 1953 date, titling it "Miles Ahead," not to be mistaken for the better-known 1957 Davis/Gil Evans work by the same name (which Henderson also selected). Confusion may reign here, but definitely not in the music.
The rewardingly compatible pairing of Henderson and Scofield for So Near, So Far makes one wish that Scofield had been able to add Henderson to his own group around that time (or vice versa), as Joe Lovano was about to move on. Holland and Foster, of course, knew Miles's music first-hand and intimately, and perform at their best. This "Milestones" is an easygoing, circular melodic theme with an attractive bridge, and would have fit right in on the Davis Birth of the Cool session. Henderson and Scofield play it in relaxed unison before the tenorist's compelling solo, which features his expressive tone and a typically restless attack that utilizes compressed, staccato phrases and intricately wound extended lines. Scofield's comping makes this sound like a heady blend of '60s and '80s Miles, and the guitarist's own solo, even with its distinctive distortion-enhanced voicings, appears to be transposing Henderson's artistic sensibility from tenor to guitar. Soul brothers indeed, and Henderson wisely invited Scofield back some five years later for his Verve adaptation of Porgy and Bess.
Reviewer: Scott Albin