on a winning streak

So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles) (Verve)
Joe Henderson

By John Goodin

Joe Henderson should be having the time of his life. His 1992 Verve recording Lush Life propelled him to a triple-crown in the Downbeat International Critics' Poll: Jazz Artist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, and #1 Tenor Saxophonist. Now he has followed one masterpiece with another.

So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles) is brilliant in both conception and execution. 1993 will undoubtedly see many tributes to the late Miles Davis, but So Near, So Far will be the benchmark they are measured against. Henderson, who only played in the Davis band a few weeks, has recruited three other Davis alumni for this project. Al Foster was Miles' favorite drummer after Tony Williams, John Scofield may be the most interesting guitar player on the scene and Dave Holland, who is one of the best bass players in the world.

Together this quartet tackles ten tunes either written by Miles or belonging solely to him. Few, if any, players have had the salt to record tunes like "Teo," "Side Car," or "Flamenco Sketches." Rather than ape the Miles Davis sound, Henderson has chosen to adopt the Davis attitude. This approach produces wonderful results.

Beginning with producer Don Sickler's beautiful condensed arrangement of "Miles Ahead," the quartet shows its sensitive side. The swinging "Joshua" opens things up a little and "Phrancing" showcases Henderson's blues chops. Every cut is a gem. Especially enjoyable is the rambling, Ornette-ish version of "Side Car." The band sounds loose and confident, the listener can just relax and soak it up. You can't miss with this one.