Bill Henderson (vcl), Julius Watkins (frh), Donald Byrd, Booker Little, Bobby Bryant, Willie Thomas (tp), Frank Strozier (as), Junior Cook, Charlie Rouse, Yusef Lateef, Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess (ts), Hank Jones, Horace Silver, Ramsey Lewis, Wynton Kelly, Gildo Mahones, Tommy Flanagan, Harold Mabern (p), Jimmy Smith (org), Ray Crawford, Freddie Green (g), Wilbur Ware, Gene Taylor, Eldee Young, Paul Chambers, Bob Cranshaw, Milt Hinton (b), Philly Joe Jones, Louis Hayes, Donald Bailey, Isaac “Redd” Holt, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin Jones, Walter Perkins (d), Benny Golson, Jimmy Jones, Richard Evans, Thad Jones (arr)
Bar code: 8427328611275
It is time for William Randall Henderson (1926-2016), artistically known as Bill Henderson, to receive much wider recognition as one of jazz’s leading male singers. From 1952, slowly but surely, Bill’s rich singing voice and personality style drew him into the hearts of the public in his native Chicago. He could sing with equal grace and conviction a tender ballad, a stomping blues, a semi R&B tune, show tune, novelty tune, or whatever he chose.
Encouraged by pianist Billy Taylor, Bill went to New York in 1957, and in the tough field of jazz vocalists, he gradually rose above the rest. In 1958, he first recorded a single with the Charlie Rouse group and shortly thereafter he teamed up with Horace Silver for the now classic recording of “Señor Blues.” It was a jukebox hit, and as Bill said, “that’s when it all began.”
In June 1960, Louise Davis Stone in the The Citizen Call, praised Henderson with these words: “One night at the Half Note, Bill Henderson took the mike with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet and set the place afire with ‘Moanin’’ —I’ve been a fan ever since. There’s a naked sexuality, plus an element of sincerity, that makes his voice one of the most significant voices in the business.”
This 2-CD set compiles the first recordings that Bill Henderson made for the Riverside, Blue Note, and Vee Jay labels between 1958 and 1961. Always surrounded by excellent musicians, Henderson indisputably demonstrates in these sessions that he owned an impressive vocal instrument and knew how to use it.
"Bill Henderson (1926-2016) was a legendary figure in Los Angeles during his final 50 years who sang in clubs and had acting roles in films and television. He always had a friendly and very musical voice and can be compared in his style to Joe Williams and Ernie Andrews although he also displayed his own musical personality.
Born in Chicago, it was not until he was 31 that he moved to New York and started becoming well-known. Henderson’s recording of “Señor Blues” with the Horace Silver quintet became a hit in 1958 and led to him becoming a fulltime singer.
This two-CD set, with the exception of six titles made in 1952 with the Jackson Brothers Orchestra, has all of the singer’s early recordings. The first two songs were made for Riverside, and there are five songs (“Señor Blues” and four numbers with organist Jimmy Smith) that were cut for Blue Note. Otherwise all of the music is from sessions for the Vee Jay label including six “bonus” cuts not on the original LPs.
Henderson already had a mature and very recognizable sound, swinging all the way including on the occasional ballads. Along with those mentioned, the supporting cast includes such notables as the Ramsey Lewis Trio, an octet led by Benny Golson that includes trumpeter Booker Little and tenor-saxophonist Yusef Lateef, the Bobby Bryant Octet, the MJT + 3, a quartet with pianist Tommy Flanagan, the Eddie Higgins Trio, and a few large orchestras. In all, there are 47 selections on this definitive twofer.
Henderson would soon record an album with the Oscar Peterson Trio and become a member of the Count Basie Orchestra for two years before moving to Los Angeles. The performances on Señor Blues still sound fresh and lively today and show that Bill Henderson was already a musical giant during his earlier period."
—Scott Yanow (June, 2023)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"I was able to see vocalist Bill Henderson (1926-2016) many times in the LA jazz club scene, and was always 1) impressed at how impeccable each set would be in terms of delivery and style 2) looking around and wondering why he’s not a bigger figure in the music scene.
This two disc collection will make both thoughts come to your attention as well. Yes, he had a kind of hit with a vocal rendition of Horace Silver’s “Senor Blues” (which is included here), but for the most part he’s been overlooked so much that he’s actually better known for his acting career, which included a role in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers.
His Midwestern drawl is an asset here, adding a bit of sardonic wit to his delivery of “Busy Signal” with an all star team of Charlie Rouse/ts, Hank Jones/p, Wilbur Ware/b and Philly Joe Jones/dr. A session with B3er Jimmy Smith’s Trio has him shuffling on “Ain’t That Love” and deeply blue on “Angel Eyes”. He’s adept at gospel teamed with Ramsey Lewis Trio on “Free Spirits” and is absolutely riveting on “Joey, Joey, Joey”.
Larger ensembles like octets conducted by Benny Golson or led by Bobby Bryant have Henderson holding his own with Booker Little/tp, Yusef Lateef/ts, Wynton Kelly/p, Jimmy Cob/b, Paul Chamber/b, Frank Wess/ts, and Benny Powell/tb for a wild “This Little Girl Of Mine” and a fun “Bad Luck”, wile giving a great into to “Sleepy”. He even shines with a full orchestra with oboes, harps and strings for a clear “Never Kiss and Run”, and an aria of “Don’t Like Goodbyes”.
His acting skills come out when backed by Thad Jones’ orchestra on “Never Will I Marry” and My How The Time Goes By” and sparkles on “Skylark” with Tommy Flanagan/p, Freddie Green/g, Milt Hinton/b and a tasty Elvin Jones/dr. This guy fits every role given him here. You’ll be won over by him, easy.
The liner notes and studio sessions are well served here as well, giving great insight to an overlooked master."
—George W. Harris (March 27, 2023)