JAZZ REVIEW : Joe Henderson Combo Clicks Into High Gear

Put this one on your jazz calendar with a big star: Joe Henderson, Billy Childs, Tony Dumas and Roy Haynes at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood--through Sunday night.

When such performers as tenor saxophonist Henderson arrive in town for an impromptu gig with a local rhythm section, the results can be erratic, at best. But Tuesday's opening-night combination clicked into gear with the smooth acceleration of a Ferrari moving into the fast lane.

Henderson is one of the very few authentic originals of the post-John Coltrane era. His soloing--best characterized in the opening "Invitation" and a high-voltage chase through "What Is This Thing Called Love"--was a virtual synthesis of tenor saxophone history. Slow phrases recalled the angular melodism of Sonny Rollins; long, loping up-tempo lines were seasoned with Coltranesque harmonic extensions; wild flurries of notes bristled with the hectic passions of the avant-garde.

Yet there was never any doubt that Henderson had assembled this mosaic of styles into something uniquely his own--the sound and substance of a world-class jazz improviser at the peak of his form.

He couldn't have asked for better support than that provided by Childs, Dumas and Haynes. Ten minutes into the set the four players, who had never worked together before as a group, were purring with the redline r.p.m.'s of a finely-tuned engine.

A good part of the responsibility for the rapid musical integration went to Haynes, whose quick shifts of rhythm and startling dynamic changes provided instant arrangements for the otherwise unstructured pieces. His playing was an instant education in how to make music on a set of drums. In addition, Dumas' subtle bass lines, always supportive but never intrusive, were the foundation stones that allowed the other musicians to soar so freely.

Childs' superb work provided further testimony of the dynamic growth of this gifted young musician. Like the others, he was both individual and partner, soloist and accompanist in an unexpectedly unique ensemble. If they were this good 10 minutes after they got together, the weekend performances should be dynamite.

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