Joe Henderson: Tetragon (1968) Milestone (updated)

UPDATED June 7, 2020 – Harry M hits the spot-focus, photos Kenny Barron 1970 & Jack de Johnette 1969 added to foot of post.

Selection: Tetragon (Henderson)

.  .  .


Two Henderson sessions, eight months apart, recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, once home base of the Riverside Records label, located on the eighth floor of Radio City Music Hall.

September 27, 1967: Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Kenny Barron, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Louis Hayes, drums, recorded Plaza Sound Studios, NYC, recording engineer, Elvin Campbell. (Tetragon, First Trip, I’ve Got You Under My Skin)  Other tracks –

May 16, 1968: Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Don Friedman, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums, recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, NYC,

Orphaned from Blue Note, and not in favour with Liberty, Joe Henderson’s Milestone albums kicked off with two highly listenable and collectable albums,  The Kicker, and Tetragon (released January 1969). Joe could then have joined the “spiritual” and mystic, Sun Ra , Strata East, The Pharoah Master Plan oeuvre, but instead chose one political, with a series of black-themed titles, an early couple lifted by the presence of Woody Shaw on trumpet: Power to the People, “If You’re Not Part Of The Solution, Your’e Part Of The Problem”, In Pursuit of Blackness, Black Is the Color,  Black Miracle, Black Narcissus,  (plus an exceptional title, The Elements, with Alice Coltrane).

These Black Vinyl Matters titles experimented with various musical devices riding current trends, adding the fusion-leaning Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, multiple percussion layers (Airto), E-mu polyphonic synthesisers (Dr. Patrick  Gleeson); multi-track confections and increasingly ephemeral music in search of fertile new ground, and not finding it. Most of these later Milestones can be found priced in single figures, harsh, but such is the verdict of the market,

Henderson’s  mythical sessions of the late 50s to mid 60s would not return. The audience was moving on, fusion was just around the corner, a last gasp of modern jazz before it had to don gold lame pants, switch piano for synthesiser, or moved to Europe to bag a Danish (blonde). Only decades later, in the ’80s, would Henderson emerge re-energised, with his live trio double album The State Of The Tenor.


Tetragon features chirpy melodies pitched midway between hi-energy mainstream and languid post-bop. Henderson’s tone is hard burr, skinny compared with some fuller-tone players, closer to parakeet-strangling, leaping into solos with imaginative twists and turns, probing multiphonic extremes. Add choppy-comping piano and Ron Carter motoring on bass, and you have solid listening session. Not an essential compared with the Blue Note sessions, but still an enjoyable Henderson outing, and perhaps one of the last for some time.

Vinyl: Milestone MSP 9017

The Milestone label was Orin Keepnews sucessor label to Riverside, formed with Dick Katz, a busy piano sideman since the mid ’50s.The label offered a refuge for numerous jazz artists at the close of the ’60s, including McCoy Tyner, Gary Bartz, Nat Adderley, Ron Carter and Bobby Timmons.

Pressing quality is in line with Milestone’s  predecessor Riverside, which means variable, generally OK, some better than other,  some dirty/ noisy. Keepnews was more concerned about artist signing and merchandising, not alone in not really understanding the importance of manufacturing quality.

Calling all Pixel Peepers! Curious pressing plant symbol on both sides. Anyone recognise it? It is very small, about half the size of Plastylite’s P, looks like a ghostly inverted letter V emerging from an illuminated tunnel, or a big-horn flying mountain goat ? I tried to describe it, just not very well, you may be able to do better. Who’s symbol is it? I must know.

Milestone pressing plant symbol.jpg

Milestone has a number of label variations – yellow/ tan, blue, green, and brick-red, and many are casually referred to as “original”, when no-one really knows how the variations are dated. See Collector’s Corner below for a definitive answer.

Collector’s Corner

Tetragon is found on three different Milestone labels, the blue, the yellow tan,and an obviously not original brick-red from the Fantasy/ OJC school. So these are the candidates for the “original” and both are describes variously as first and original.

Discogs unhelpfully has no labels pictured in its main 1968 entry, just front and back cover, leaving everyone no wiser. I have been told by other collectors that the yellow/ tan is the earliest label – for some records perhaps, but this one? . I thought I would put an end to it, as always, seek out the promo, generally, if not always, the first of the first.Yes, there is one.

Blue Label has it, I think.

Tetragon is a good example of Jazz For Listening, rather than Jazz For Trading and Investment, and its twin, Records To Impress Your Friends. However one record that fits in all three categories was drawn to my attention by a reader, who took issue with one of my record label guides, in particular, my transition point of the -A suffix in the evolution of the ’60s Impulse label, A-77, A Love Supreme.

As seems often the case, mono promos top the auction value for this 1965 release, occupying three of the four highest priced auctions.

For anyone interested in discerning The Original of an Impulse album, the -A suffix on the label is like the ® on Blue Note, or the Bergenfield address on Prestige. There is 1st Ed. and not 1st. Ed. Nothing arcane or obscure, it is a large red flag. Any Impulse orange/black label with a catalogue number earlier than A-77 which has a suffix -A/-B label is a later pressing. For example A-60 on the orange/ black label is or could be original, A-60-A on the label is  a later pressing, indisputably.  Small Things Matter.

Coltrane’s masterpiece  A Love Supreme, stereo edition, was believed to be the transition point of commencement of the -A suffix . All stereo copies of ALS I had seen were AS-77-A. on the label, and invariably described in auctions as “Original!”.

However; there was one nagging doubt. Impulse mono and stereo label copy was always the same – merely a different catalogue number, A or AS. In early 1965 when ALS was being prepared for release, the mono promo was unequivocally A-77, no suffix, dozens of white label promos support this. Why would the stereo label AS-77 have the -A suffix, and not the mono? .

All stereo copies I could find were  AS-77-A, none AS-77, so  AS-77-A was declared  1st Ed. However that was not the end of the matter. An LJC reader turned up a stereo copy without the -A suffix, simply AS-77. No matter how rare, it exists, the moment all Gurus dread, it takes just one copy.

One more deep dive.

Could a promo of the stereo edition be found? Promos are generally considered definitive of the features of the1st edition – the first of the first –  that might throw light on the point of transtion to the -A suffix.  Impulse had a well-ordered mono/white label process for radio station promos, however stereo promos also exist. Just one stereo promo of A Love Supreme could be found!

Below left, a “Sample not for resale”. A different title bearing the same “SAMPLE NOT FOR RESALE “stamp was also found, stamped in the same manner – inside the gatefold, diagonally, in an area of white space, suggesting the same hand, albeit a different colour inkpad.Was there a label picture with the ALS stereo promo?

The lone A Love Supreme stereo promo pictured above left included a picture of the labels, not great quality but no -A suffix, seen below. Auction priced $585.

The stereo promo includes an Impulse picture inner sleeve – the fourth and last of the blue boxed ABC Paramount Records design, 1501 Broadway, New York 36 N.Y. address.Some copies of A Love Supreme are found with the 1966 later red and black New Wave design, Avenue of Americas address inner sleeve, suggesting continuous pressing over several years.

Stereo was well established at the beginning of 1965, Coltrane was ascendant, and extra copies of the stereo will have been pressed after the initial release. From the sheer number of suffix -A/-B editions, the initial print label run was small. Copies without the suffix, are, as one seller would say, insanely rare.

The starting point of the Impulse -A suffix label is moved up one, to A-78-A, in a continuous run thereafter with the exception of A-80, which was prepared for release out of sequence – both the mono and stereo of A-80 are without the suffix. A consistency that is reassuring. The only chore remaining was to go back to the original Impulse label series to correct it. Took ages.

I have both mono and stereo British releases, and I still think this recording sounds better in mono, it’s the next big thing. Any thoughts?


UPDATE June 7, 2020: Harry M, the vintage jazz paparazzi, strikes again

Kenny Barron taken in Montreux in 1970 when he was playing with Yusef Lateef

A very sweaty Jack de Johnette in Antibes, 1969, when he was in Miles Davis’s group with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and Dave Holland.

Photo Credits: Harry M

Music in mono, pictures in monochrome, black and white is right.










19 thoughts on “Joe Henderson: Tetragon (1968) Milestone (updated)

  1. Re the black vinyl matters,I thought it was funny,and showed support of the black community here is the US. I was made in the context of the context of Joe Henderson and his future releases,which addressed exactly the problem we f faced a resident of Minneapolis, I can tell you there are potent problems here. The violence is inexcusable, but 400 years of systematized oppression are more so. Don’t forget whose music we are listening to, and culturally appropriating,which is never mentioned by us, the white privileged.

    This theft, as it applies to jazz goes back 100 years,and was firmly captured by Lester young. We continued to put CHARLIE MINGUS on Mingus’ albums,but by his own wishes his name was Charles,Charlie was a slave name much as Cassius was to one legendary boxer….

  2. I don’t know how close the suffix mono came after the original A-77, but a week seems on the short side. I’ve been collecting vinyl for 2.5 years now, in earnest, vintage vinyl for merely 1.5 years,and I have tres copias of ALS original “A-77” mono, all in excellent condition,no suffix. I have that one Stereo AS-77 carolinasoul, in my hometown of Durham NC, just sold, but it’s a bit trodden upon.

    I need to update my photo back to Pharoah Sanders (interestingly,spelling is equivocado on this,since his gma based it off Pharrell.

  3. Got shot of all the Milestones years ago except one and kept all the Blue Notes.
    The Milestone I kept was Joe Henderson in Japan recorded in 1971 . He’s “Smokin’ Joe” on that recording . Keep up the great work including a sense of humour

  4. [i]”Power to the People, “If You’re Not Part Of The Solution, Your’e Part Of The Problem”, In Pursuit of Blackness, Black Is the Color, Black Miracle, Black Narcissus, (plus an exceptional title, The Elements, with Alice Coltrane).

    These Black Vinyl Matters titles experimented with various musical devices riding current trends, adding the fusion-leaning Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, multiple percussion layers (Airto), E-mu polyphonic synthesisers (Dr. Patrick Gleeson); multi-track confections and increasingly ephemeral music in search of fertile new ground, and not finding it. Most of these later Milestones can be found priced in single figures, harsh, but such is the verdict of the market”[/i]

    How tastes differ – I love everything Joe did on Blue Note, especially his last two albums “Inner Urge” and “Joe’s Mode”, but nothing comes even close to “Power to the People” (with Ron Carter, Mike Lawrence, Herbie Hancock and Jack DeJohnette) for me.
    Some of these Milestones have reached the three figures by the way – “Power to the People” and “Multiple” and very hard to find with covers in decent condition.

    • Part of the Problem is on my shelf, OK, I maybe listen again. This record has been unplayed in five or six years. Times change, tastes evolve.Who knows? However I warn, my opinion may or may not change.

  5. You know I love you, LJC, but the “Black Vinyl Matters” comment is a bit flippant given the severity of the problems BLM is dealing with. Perhaps consider removing it.

    LJC replies :
    I am disappointed by your comment GTF.

    • With all due respect, we’ve entered a time where it seems like any written statement can be offensive to someone, even when the writer had no intention to offend. And the result is that free speech is being threatened. Over several years of closely following this blog, I’ve found LJC to be extremely gracious, often comical, and occasionally pushes the limits of good taste. But the writing has never been intentionally offensive. Removing the statement would amount to censorship, and personally that’s about as offensive as it gets.

      • I all for free speech, but I personally don’t think GTF was trying offend or attack anyone by pointing out that comment by LJC.

        • The issue is whether one can be humorous about serious topics. For the Left the answer is you cannot if there is one person who might be offended. Its made standup comedy difficult as well as cost a number of talented journalists their jobs (latest being at the Philadelphia Inquirer for a headline reading “Buildings Matter, Too”; a highly regarded NY Times editor was also ousted today).

          Virtue signaling is the term for “taking offense on behalf of other people.” From what I hear its a competitive sport on social media.

          • Woah. First, let’s add some context shall we? The Inquirer’s editor was forced to resign because he allowed a headline on his paper that compared the value of human lives to the value of buildings. The NYT’s op-ed editor was forced to resign because he allowed an op-ed which called for the use of military force against the country’s own citizens, which is unconstitutional in our country. LJC’s bad pun doesn’t come anywhere close to the significance of the above. Second, this website wouldn’t exist at all if not for the music created by 99% black people, so maybe it’s not uncalled for to ask its white creator to be a little more sensitive. And really the bad pun (oxymoron: all puns are terrible) was not needed for an otherwise well-written blog, which almost makes it sound just mean-spirited or flippant as someone first said.

            Asking people to have a little more respect for other people’s dignity is not “virtue signaling.” It’s called “not being a twat.”

            • No one here is advocating LJC to “resign” over an unfortunate pun. I’m sure he didn’t mean to offend. Also, he’s British and may not be in sync with all the cultural nuances within black culture in the U.S., who can blame him for that? That said, Greg was right to point it out that this can be seen as offensive, and since all of us here are fans of jazz, one of the finest black art forms in music history, it would be a respectful move by LJC to simply remove it. No biggie.
              But to the person above who made this political by blaming “the Left,” please just go away. If you lack empathy and sensitivity towards the feeling of black Americans after 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow and other means of systematic discrimination, including the jazz community, but you enjoy the music created by black artists, maybe you should re-evaluate your position before posting on a blog dedicated a black art form.

              • Thanks all for your comments, except P, who clearly needs a safe space to go be offended on behalf of racists.

                It might be instructive to look up the definitions of free speech, which deal with the government’s ability to police what you say and is irrelevant here, and censorship, which is similarly irrelevant here.

                I am disappointed that LJC does not agree that some might see this as trivializing an important cultural movement, but no one is calling for his resignation (and from what?) or saying he is a bad person. Chill.

    • To suggest to someone that a comment they have made (written) is inappropriate is not censorship. It is a fact that making a joke based on “Black Lives Matter” is offensive and/or hurtful to many people, especially in the current atmosphere. There is enough hate in the world. I would suggest taking comments to heart, learning from them, and asking oneself “are my actions or words truly benign or do they add to the problems of implicit bias and/or systemic racial discrimination?”
      (The Black Lives Matter Foundation is a global movement, active in the UK, among other places.)

  6. I don’t know for sure if AS-77 was definitely the last Impulse without the suffix or a transitional record. I am sure, though, that the first copies with A suffixes must have been pressed the very same year as the A-77 sans suffix, probably only weeks after the very first run – why? We need to take another look at the label: Up to at least AS-88 (“Dear John C” by Elvin Jones from ca. mid 1965), Impulse used semi-gloss black/orange labels. After that, those were replaced by matte labels for both new releases and repressings of albums that initially came out without the A suffix. You will not find semi-gloss Impulse labels in the 9100s catalogue numbers and only some random titles in the A-90s (the mono version of “Coltrane Quartet plays” has semi gloss labels whereas the stereo copy is matte).

    My “ALS” stereo copy does have the A-suffix but also semi-gloss labels. “ALS” may not have been pressed as much as “Kind of Blue”, but the very first run definitely sold out very quickly (it still ranks among the 10 best selling jazz albums of all times IIRC and contrary to “Kind of Blue” it sold pretty well from the start). Considering that A-77 sans suffix are very hard to find (much harder than very first copies of “Kind of Blue” with the inverted tracklist on Side B) tells us (1) there was no second pressing run with A-77 sans suffix and (2) that all AS-77 with suffix but with semi gloss labels were probably pressed very shortly after, maybe even within a few weeks after the initial run. All other copies with suffix with matte labels would have been pressed later (1966). The last copies with black/orange labels that state “A Product of ABC Records, Inc., New York, N.Y. 10019, Made in U.S.A. (in three lines) were definitely pressed later ca. 1967 just before Impulse changed to black/red ring labels. New Impulse releases had reached catalogue numbers ca. AS-9119-9138 when this text in three lines was introduced.

    I’d love to have mono copy as “A Love Supreme” is my favourite album, but I have to say that the stereo is absolutely fantastic sounding. Elvin Jones’ drumkit “bleeds” through from the right to the left channel, creating a great sense of the room and Coltrane isn’t hard panned on the left but rather 3/4 quarter to the left. It is, as always, a matter of preference. The only downside to all stereo RVG copies is the low hum that can be heard in the run-in/out – Rudy must have forgotten to turn off a machine that creates that sound, but it disappears once the music starts so I don’t really care.

    • I always had questions about why some (if not all) “original” non-suffix stock copies of ALS had matte labels while the “later” copies with the suffix often had semi-gloss labels, which were supposed to pre-date the matte labels.

      Both of my copies of ALS have the suffix but the mono has semi-gloss labels while the stereo has matte labels.

      And a note regrading “Coltrane Quartet plays” – my stereo copy has semi-gloss labels not matte.

  7. That pressing plant stamp looks to my eyes like a “star” stamp that wasn’t fully embedded in the lacquer.

    • The pressing plant is definitely Premier Custom Pressing – that is a partial star like many others on Milestone. They used this pressing plant for many of their issues.

      For the -A and no -A, these are different pressing plants. You see this with a number of labels. I have a Keel pressing with the serrated edge, Van Gelder metal, mono. It has the -A. But it’s first press in label style, etc. How is the other 1st press but this one is not? Makes no sense. Just different pressing plants pressing at the same time. You see this very often with Prestige too. Some plants use no matrix number on the label – just the catalog number and then Side 1/2 while a different plant pressing at the same time does use the -A/-B label matrix. It doesn’t make one first press and the other not. Especially in this case.

  8. Re Coltrane Impulse and “I still think this recording sounds better in mono,” all my Coltrane Impulses, including both editions of Ascension and Om, are in mono. Not due to having ‘golden ears,’ rather mono was a dollar cheaper than stereo when I was buying them in the 60’s. And that meant a lot when your pocket money was minuscule.
    And, as always, LJC, a most enjoyable and enlightening read.

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