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Heritage (1976)

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Billy Hart

For 1973's dynamite Realization and Inside Out, trumpeter Eddie Henderson reassembled most of the legendary Herbie Hancock sextet he'd been part of. In 1975 after leaving Capricorn for Blue Note, he kept elements of that group together for Sunburst, his label debut, with some major changes: George Dukeplayed keyboards in place of Hancock; bassist Paul Jackson was replaced by Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Mike Clarke with Billy Hart. It resulted in a funkier experimental outing that tightened up the tunes a bit, but left plenty of blowing room for himself, reedman Bennie Maupin, and trombonist Julian Priester. The set sold well commercially, but many jazz critics derided it because of its perceived "commercial" overtones. Released in 1976, Heritage was greeted with even more ambivalence, but has since come to be regarded -- with Sunburst -- as one of the great recordings of Henderson's career by an entirely new generation who hold funky rhythms and electronics in high esteem. Henderson brought back Priester, and Jackson and Clarke returned to the rhythm section (Hart played on the album's final cut, "Dark Shadow"). Filling out the band were a young Patrice Rushen on keyboards, saxophonist, flutist, and clarinetist Hadley Caliman in place of Maupin, and percussionist James Mtume from theMiles Davis group. Henderson emulates the spacier edges of Davis' electric period in his own playing. Long lines of few notes are accompanied by hypnotic basslines and multi-layered polyrhythmic percussion on "Time and Space." On "Acuphuncture," Rushen's wah-wah keyboards, Jackson's driven bassline, and Clarke's rimshots and breakbeats introduce a lilting pair of lines from Caliman's flute andHenderson's trumpet, but within a minute, the tune cracks open into a driving, hard funk jam withHenderson laying down some short, choppy post-bop lines on his horn. Things become even darker -- and funkier -- on "Kudu," where Jackson's bassline is at the top of the mix. It's furious as it pops againstMtume's roiling congas in direct assaultive counterpoint to Clarke's kit work. Rushen creates fat, choppy chords and vamps for HendersonPriester, and Caliman to solo over. It's tighter than Miles' electric material, but less spacy. Priester's trombone feels like a futuristic version of one on the front line in the J.B.'s. "Mganga" has a less pronounced set of lyric imagery, and offers the best explanation for some punters' trouble with the set: the abstraction (and absence) of a true front line sense of lyric in favor of angular, articulate countermelodies played by individual horns that move toward the rhythms almost in opposition, rather than play above them. The beautiful Star Trek futurism of the brass over Rushen's crazy solo also rocks. Caliman's bass clarinet tone is all but indistinguishable from Maupin's on "Dark Shadow" except for its economy. (He plays a continuous seven-note vamp through the entire tune.) The loopy, mournful wah-wah trumpet overdubs are a contrapuntal melody to that, but the drums begin to shake loose during Priester's future blues solo. The cut explodes at about the four-minute mark viaHenderson's solo before deconstructing all but the vamps toward its close. Heritage is a wonderful set, and should be revisited by anyone who either missed or was put off by it initially. For the new generation of jazz and funk heads, this one is right up your alley -- these are some dark, freaky, and delicious grooves that bear further investigation. Heritage was re-released on CD in 2008 as part of the Blue NoteRare Groove Series.