Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe (1966) Blue Note

Selection: Mode For Joe

.  .  .


Lee Morgan, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Bobby Hutcherson, vibes; Cedar Walton, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Joe Chambers, drums, recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 27, 1966, released November 1966.

One line up you can’t fit in a taxi, a septet:  Henderson, Morgan, Fuller brass front line,  add Hutcherson mallets; Walton, Carter and Chambers bringing up the rear, you could not ask for more top talent in 1966, an all-star line up.

Musical Notes: Joe Henderson, The  Art Of The Tenor

Aside from the Giants (right, hat-tip  M C Escher’s triangle) and the founding fathers of bop,  to my ears, two saxophone players in the middle ’60s field stand out: Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson. Both combine superior expressive improvisation with strong composing skills. Henderson strikes me as the more emotional and adventurous of the two players. Shorter I find more measured and controlled as a player, but the stronger composer.  No need to choose between, I’ll take ’em both.

I turned to another saxophone player to describe in horn-playing musician-speak Henderson’s stylistic acheivements: sopranist Dave Leibman:

“As a saxophonist, I consider Joe’s style an extension of Sonny Rollins, attributable mostly to his sense of phrasing and note choices and the fact that the principles of the bebop legacy are fundamental to both. However, Joe took the tenor sax elsewhere technically, in areas such as his unique set of expressive devices, unending variations of articulations, fast arpeggios, trills and the like, a looseness of rhythm that defied the bar line, his own personal way of using the high register of the horn, and a tone that could go from liquid to coarse in a beat”

Leibman continues, but lost me at this point: ” “Shade of Jade” has a large percentage of major 7 flat 5 chords, with a lot of whole and half step root motion“. Yeah…root motion..  (strokes imaginary goatee) dig those cords, hipsters, mine are … purple.

Henderson’s “voice” is distinctive, a hard and gruff tone, not at all the nasal malted-chocolate tone of Hank Mobley, the acid sharp alto of Jackie Mclean, or the sour burnt tone of Wayne Shorter’s tenor.  What matters next is what the voice goes on to sing: emotional expression, urgency and excitement, fluent lyricism, and of course, inventiveness and surprise. Joe Henderson has all of it.

Music: Mode For Joe

Three years on from his Blue Note debut, Henderson was growing in tenor power, growing the size of his band, and now growing a beard. The presence of several feature soloists stop it from being “just a saxophone album”, though nothing intrinsically wrong with that, if it’s a good album. The songs here are less  ensemble pieces than a platform for the soloists. Not everyone appears on every track, or in the same running order, which keeps pace and texture varied.

If you wanted words to describe Mode For Joe, it falls under the umbrella of “adventurous hard bop”, neither inside nor outside, more somewhere in the middle, with a bit of both. That doesn’t help much, LJC, start again.

A Shade of Jade and Mode For Joe travel a long way beyond the infectious bossa beats of Page One,  to energetic, raucous, helter-skelter pieces.  Joe Chambers never lets up the drive, Ron Carter walks double time, bubbling beneath. Cedar Walton’s assertive comping completes the platform from which front line launch the fireworks. Lee Morgan puts on an glittering display of his trademark excitable horn,  Henderson’s drilling hard tone pierces armour, while Curtis Fuller’s trombone adds texture, weaving low brass harmonies, and at one point, an inspired rhumba undertow. Enter Hutcherson’s contrasting cool metalic tones…in effect, you are getting several albums for the price of one. Unfortunately,  a not insignificant price nowadays, well into three figures (Three copies on Discogs asking from $200 to $500)

Vinyl: BNST 84227

Liberty first pressing in late1966, VAN GELDER stereo master, vinyl 160 grams, NY labels printed for Bue Note before Liberty.

Cover fails Surgeon General’s advice against smoking, no warning.

Inner Sleeve

This record comes with the second 27 Years inner sleeve, last of the Blue Note picture inner sleeves. The unique album for this sleeve is Dexter Gordon “Getting Around” in column 6 row 4.  It was matched with BLP 4227 (Mode For Joe) and higher.

A large quantity of this sleeve was used by Liberty on titles in preparation at the time of their aquisition of Blue Note, and with early reissues. Its presence is generally an indicator of a quality East Coast pressing by All Disc, Roselle NJ. –  in the latter half of 1966, almost always with original Van Gelder master metal.

Not that I understood the significance of the inner sleeve at the time, and I was mistakenly disappointed this copy lacked the Plastylite ear, believing the ear to be the sign of genuine Blue Note.  It was only some time later I became familiar with the  35 Blue Note  titles caught in the early stages of preparation for release, whose first pressing was by Liberty. Fears are groundless, the school of ’66 Liberty pressings from Van Gelder masters are the equal of Plastylite, in all except price. The same can not be said of all the years that were to follow.

This 27 Years sleeve is always a good thing to find on a Liberty. Cherish it.

Collector’s Corner

    Mode For Joe: Marketplace Mischief & Mayhem

I was shocked at recent auction prices of Mode For Joe. Popike tells the story. What interested me, aside from the eyewatering prices, was lots of spurious detail; a couple suprisingly claim “sealed” (Liberty in 1966? just … possibly); quoting the back cover address 43W61St., (which is the same on every Blue Note cover from 1960 to 1966)  The top price seller  claims their copy  is “Deep Groove”, which is total  bs. Deep groove  disappeared at Plastylite a year and a half previously, and never appeared on any record pressed for Liberty.  Everyone skirted around the absence of the Plastylite ear. Nothing wrong in that, it is “the original”, no need to be shy.

The important thing is condition and that it is the mono which fetches the premium price.

My humble stereo copy was marked down due to its scruffy cover. One previous owner  painted his name in white tippex on the top right of the front cover, and black felt tip on the back. Idiot. I photoshopped it out. I have to look at it, no reason why you should have to as well.

I bought it in 2010, an Ebay auction a year before the birth of LondonJazzCollector, under $50.

It never made a LJC post, because attention in those heady days was then focussed on “new aquisitions”, and showing off my latest score.  There were many: postman calling daily with record-shaped brown packages, some from an exotic place called New York. And so many things to learn, and mistakes to make, but Blue Note was love-at-first-sound, and I wanted more.

Confessions of a Record Collector

There is probably a diagram to be drawn about the stages of building a record collection. It  starts with aquisition overdrive,  voracious, everything you can get your hands on. Fortuitously, among the commonplace Japanese and French copies, you pick up what will be ultimately be proved bargains: originals. Then, as you become more knowlegeable and discriminating, buying fewer  and more expensive records. Finally you reach the point where you have most of the records you want, and you rarely if ever see the few remaining of your wants list, and reluctant to stretch to the most expensive trophy records (though some will).

I wondered if this collector’s model  would be supported by the facts? Being a numbers guy, and because I enter the “date added” to my collection database, it was possible to extract a count of records added in each of the last full nine years (barring a few blanks and typos and part-year 2010, and excluding 2020) Never done this before. The results, for 1600 records for which I had a date-added, shocked me. This is what a vinyl junkie‘s diary looks like!

Number of Records Bought Each Year

2011: 288
2012: 308
2013: 286
2014: 198
2015: 150
2016: 188
2017: 87
2018: 71
2019: 46

In the first three years I was buying virtually one record a day! Madness.

Consolidating in the following three years, record buying dropped by nearly half, to only one record every two days. Still madness. In the latest three years however, record buying has fallen to less than one a week. If I had 2020 up to date, which I haven’t yet, it has probably fallen even lower. I could do the same data with expenditure at some time.

LJC reader Eric sent me these pictures of a veritable  Aladdin’s Cave of jazz records he had been bidding on. I figure this is what happens when a record collector simply remains stalled in aquisition mode. What to listen to, apart from the doorbell as postie arrives laden down with more records. Meticulously filed in alphabetical order, a collection may be ten times the size of my own, based on the approximate number of records visible for selected letters of the alphabet.







The personal challenge now is not to collect more records, but to listen to the ones I already have. I admire Giorgio’s Injunction (DottorJazz), that you should play every record you own at least once a year. I fail that test miserably in the past, but it’s the right advice and I’m planning to take it. As a result, I expect to find more records I missed first time around, and want to write about. No problem,  I have, unexpectedly, plenty of  time on my hands.

If there are any records you would find helpful to have a view on, I am open to suggestion, just keep your social distance.



24 thoughts on “Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe (1966) Blue Note

  1. Happy to provide pictures as soon as I get home. Just for clarification : what details should I include or Focus the camera on (it auto focuses often on or cast no matter where she is ::grin::) for this BLP 1530: +Lex, +DG, +br, +RVGe, no P, COPY?

    Do you want a video of me circumnavigating the labels with a camera to show the absence of the P?

    I currently do not have a not-for-human-weights scale, but will order a scientific one from Amazon today to provide the weight.

    I also have a couple other oddities in my collection…. And I have heard rumors of a copy of BLP 4059 work the following attributes: +W63i, +p, +dg, +RVGs. (NOT +dg – s2, but an actual +dg (both sides).

  2. Always very interesting and catching with the BN history from the technical aspect 🙂 It can never be cheered too many times to LJC about his site – a treasure of enjoyment AND facts! Thx for this engangement, LJC!
    But let’s not forget the music and musicians performing here on this recording – what a great bunch, playing with a great variety of instruments! Also the RVG audio work; sound/stereo mix here is also very appealing – well balanced between instruments, and the different placement in sound stage are very precise and giving a broad sound (instead of the a bit banal “right/left stereo mix”). In my opinion – one of Joe Henderson’s highly enjoyable albums!

    (source: BN/Liberty BST84227, 2’nd stereo press, All-Disc – probably from the same batch as LJC’s)

  3. Hi team,
    apparently the no dg for liberty pressings is not the case, according to fred cohen. I recently acquired a copy of BLP 1530 with the following attributes: +Lex, +dg, +br, +RVGe, no p. I was initially surprised, but later surmised it likely a liberty pressing in 1966 with old Lex labels, AND dg! I spoke to Fred and he agreed that was the most likely provenance of the disc. Go figure!

    • Hi, first, congratulations on having that record, whatever it is.

      As Aaron has asked, can you confirm the weight of the bare vinyl? I would expect 1957 Lexington to weigh around 200 grams, a Liberty 1966 in the region of 140 grams. That is a good starting point to narrow down the possibilities.
      The cover is a separate issue from the vinyl, it may be old stock or a re-pressing cover – frame construction? Blank or printed spine? Photo would be helpful.

      I’ve looked at a lot of grooves, seen a lot of die impressions described as “deep groove” which are contestible. I picture is the only way to move forward on that. Picture will provide more evidence of the goove type, and therefore likely date of manufacture.

      There are a number of possible explanations, including some we will never know.

  4. Having problems, hope you receive this post, don’t know if it’s Yahoo, my computer or my old brain…Yes, I pressed at Plastylite 1964-1966. I had posted a detailed description of the process a couple/few years ago…Probably in LJS’s ‘archives’ somewhere…Let me knowLarry Creveling…

  5. Andy, your acquisition numbers are showing a reverse-exponential growth, kind of like the opposite of the Covid-19 spread (I hope we’ll see the same trend in the latter eventually), and my own looks about the same. I’ve reached a point where I own the majority of cheaper or mid-range prized records on my want list, and I am now working on the “heavy hitters,” so to speak, which are significantly more expensive. Hence, my numbers are declining, but the collectibility and value of my more recent acquisitions have gone up, so that should count for something, or nah? But when you truly think about it, I’m not sure any of this matters, as long as we do not just collect but also listen to these records, which I do frequently, even more so since practicing social distancing (a new code word for spending more time with your vinyl).

    I’ve enjoyed your write-up about “Mode for Joe,” coincidentally I just posted my copy on Instagram this past Friday. It’s an original mono pressing that I acquired in SEALED condition last year (yes, they do in fact exist), and it was quite an experience to tear off that shrink and give this record a first spin (it’s first in 54 years), the first listener to ever do so. This was an upgrade from a stereo pressing like yours, but my first copy was a Liberty pressing that I acquired around 1995, one of my first Blue Notes that ignited my passion for jazz and jazz vinyl collecting. For said reasons, mostly of nostalgic nature, this record will always hold a special place in my heart, so I am grateful for you showing it some love here.

  6. My buying rate has slowed right down. I can go for months without buying a record — and what I do buy are invariably bargains, good reissues, oddities that spark an interest. I never buy expensive originals. I have never, ever paid more than forty quid for a record. For years now I have been very much in a play-what-you-have mode and expect that to continue. A time will come, I feel sure, when I will no longer be a ‘collector’ in any sense of the term that would be recognised here.

    Twenty years or so back a friend of mine became obsessed with records. He hoovered up some fantastic (but often fairly poor condition) originals from charity shops. He bought virtually every day. At weekends he would sometimes visit multiple record fairs. He progressed rapidly to buying entire collections. He readily admitted that he wanted every record he could find. It was, quite genuinely, an obsession. He added new shelving units. He converted an entire large room to house nothing but records — thousands and thousands.

    Almost as suddenly, the fact that he was overwhelmed by records started to repel him. The burden of these records became almost a physical illness. He sold absolutely every one and hasn’t bought a record since.

    I offer this without judgement or comment or caution — merely a cautionary tale that I sometimes remind myself of…

  7. I think my first jazz LP was Stanley Turrentine’s “Don’t Mess with Mr. T.” That was back around 1974, when I heard a track on a local AM radio station in California (USA), that only played jazz on Sunday afternoons, I think.

    I was a regular kid, listening to top 40 AM rock and roll. So Turrentine’s song really stood out. I bought it immediately and my interest in jazz began. No, I never bought hundreds of new LPs a year, I couldn’t afford to do that.

    As CDs came in, I started selling off LPs, then buying a few here and there. Moving from one apartment to the next, I’d sell off some LPs. So my collection has grown and then shrunk over the decades. I’d guess I’m down to 150-200 LPs now. My last move caused me to really get nasty and sell off a lot of vinyl. I regret that, yet I don’t. Sold a ton of CDs, too.

    The last two decades I’ve been a dumpster diver… meaning I peruse the dollar bins like a rat trying to find that last, tender morsel. Dollar records that I never would have bought for their regular retail price at the time. I’ve discovered a ton of great music that way, and a lot of clinkers that I donate to charity stores. Yes, they are in average to totally trashed condition, but you get what you pay for. If I love it enough, I might buy a better copy. Discovered Nancy Wilson this way, and a lot of Nat Cole LPs I would have otherwise ignored.

    In between, I’ve bought some used vinyl for some $25-$30 American, some new vinyl for about the same price and in a startling admission, some CDs. I’m a fan of the Mosaic LP and CD reissues. No, can’t afford the Ebay auctions for that top of line Blue Note.

    It’s a living. Thanks LJC!

  8. My stages of collecting have generally followed your model. As you move up on the learning curve, you become more discriminating. It was cleverly insightful for you to record date of purchase. I seriously miss collecting records before the days of eBay. Digging through the boxes and crates in record stores of most major US cities or college towns would invariably turn up near mint LPs at affordable prices. Since eBay, it’s become a sellers market.

  9. Don’t think of your stereo copy as humble, Andy. I have the same pressing and, frankly, this septet needs the space of a stereo soundstage to be heard to best advantage. Paying significantly more for the mono is, in this instance, madness.

    As for purchase rate, I guess my annual average is pretty stable at a little over the equivalent of one per month and has been that way since I resumed collecting after a break of over ten years (raising a family will do that to you). What I do find, though, is that I can go for months without buying a single record, then a load turn up all at once like the proverbial London buses.

    • I agree, as someone who has owned both stereo and mono pressings of this album, I was perfectly fine with my stereo copy, it sounded excellent. The only reason for my “upgrade” was that I came across a sealed mono original. The added value didn’t hurt of course, but from a sonic perspective, the stereo was perfect.

  10. Hi LJC,

    Great post! And one of my personal favorites. My first jazz record, several years ago, was Henderson’s “Multiple” on Milestone ( I came into jazz backwards from the ’70s ). I think Dottore’ s rule is a good one. I, like you, started off with an insatiable appetite for records and have built a respectable collection. I’m now at a point where I mostly upgrade the records I love when I come across an original pressing that is in great condition. I have a long list of wants, but many are a) way out of my price range, and b) near impossible to find in great condition. I have a silly idea that my jazz collection (other genres do not apply) should be around 750 records, which is basically two record per day. I want these 750 records to be the earliest release and best condition possible. The others are for sale and/or trade. Well, that’s my plan at least.

    Be well!

    • roughly same number of records here, after 50 years of collecting, and same attitude: few new acquisitions, always upgrading. I had to pass recently on a nice record for the high price, actually correct. sorry but not desperate. all in my collection regularly spins, if I lose love for a determined record it goes directly on my sale list.

      • My problem with this purging approach is that my musical tastes sometimes change … for example I sold a few nice mono pressings of Andrew Hill on Blue Note a few years ago because I wasn’t listening to them. Lately I have become more adventurous and I now regret parting with these records. So at this point, I’m holding on to what I got, even if I don’t listen to certain titles, because this could always change 1, 3 or 5 years from now, or even tomorrow.

        • For the same reason, I don’t reduce my collection, because of changes in musical taste over time. I make allowance for the possibility I might like this at a future date. The one exception is Cecil Taylor. I still have around half a dozen of his albums, and apart from the French Fondation Maeght SP de Vence sessions (Sam Rivers) I find him still totally unlistenable. Goes on the turntable, come straight off.

          • I feel the same way about Cecil Taylor, it’s not just that he doesn’t do anything for me, his playing actually insults my understanding of music. Which might say more about me than about Taylor, because I’m not even a musician, but I don’t care. No Cecil Taylor in his house.

            • Ha! It’s good to hear that I’m in good company regarding Cecil Taylor. Gil Evans heard something in him but I always have to skip Taylor’s two tracks on Into The Hot.

        • A few years ago I had one of those rare right place at the right time moments in a small record shop when on holiday visiting friends. A fairly inexpensive purchase of a collection of about 50 albums that had just arrived and were mostly in great condition and my kind of jazz (I’m a bit of a dyed-in-the-wool hard bopper) some avant/free in there as well which I intended to sell on at the time.
          Thankfully I decided to hold rather than fold and kept these all together in a record box which I’m now exploring. A fantastic, incredible learning curve for me. Now we’re in lockdown I’m taking time to discover and properly listen to music I had for many years simply overlooked. Just imagine Ornette, Shepp and Dolphy for the first time. Magical. Keep well everyone and keep those turntables spinning.

  11. I’d say I did the same in the past. Lots bought in the first years (hundreds), then always less. I rarely buy more than a record per month now. One of the reasons is that I own many and the ones I look for are quite expensive but I keep the good habit to listen to them all. My last listening turn began August 2019. I imagine to finish before next summer holidays. Whenever the pleasure of listening to one of my records should vanish, for any reason, I rush it in my sale list. Sometimes I have a double, sometimes don’t like anymore. What is in my collection must be a pleasure friend. I like to take dust off my records periodically but I like spinning them much more.

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