Trumpeter Eddie Henderson at 80: A Renaissance Man
Starting Monday on All Night Jazz, we will be featuring new music by the multi-faceted, trumpeter Dr. Eddie Henderson, who just turned 80 and has a new album out called “Shuffle and Deal.” WUSF’s Carson Rodriguez Bugarin and Steve Splane have more:
Edward “Eddie” Jackson Henderson was born on October 26, 1940, in New York City. Henderson was exposed to the world of music at a young age thanks to his mother a dancer at the Cotton Club, and his father, who was a member of the popular singing group, The Charioteers.
At nine years old, his mother introduced Henderson to the legendary Louis Armstrong after a show at the Apollo theater in Harlem.
“So my mother took me backstage.” Henderson told the website 21cm.org in 2018.
“That was my first lesson on the trumpet, on Louis Armstrong’s horn and his mouthpiece. He taught me how to make a sound.”
Following the death of his father when he was 14, Henderson’s mother remarried a physician and the family moved to San Francisco. Continuing his study in classical music on the trumpet, Henderson trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Once again, Henderson got to meet one of jazz’s most prominent artists, Miles Davis, who was a patient of his stepfathers.
“When I first met Miles Davis, I asked, “How do you play?” I had been imitating his solos.” Henderson told 21cm.org. “ in 2018. “ I asked him to listen to me. I put on his record and played with it.”
“He said, ‘You sound good, but that’s me.’“
“So, it’s fine to have influences. That’s the way he learned. But then you reach a point in life where you realize, who am I?”
Davis would become a mentor to Henderson and would later introduce him to his future boss, Herbie Hancock.
During high school, Henderson continued to study music, but also explored other interests like the field of medicine and competitive figure skating.
In a later interview with the Harvard Crimson, when asked about balancing all of these interests, Henderson recounted, “You have to be really disciplined and concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment…You have to have solitude and be serious.
Same thing for learning to figure skating. So, once you learn discipline at an early age, you can do any number of professions.”
In 1958, Henderson enlisted in the United States Air Force before attending medical school in 1961. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of California in 1964 and his Ph.D. from Howard University in 1968. During his time at Howard, Henderson continued to perform in clubs on the weekends in New York City.
Upon returning to San Francisco for a year of psychiatric residency, Henderson was recruited by Herbie Hancock to play a week-long series of shows that would turn into a full-time appointment with the funk-fusion, Mwandishi band.
It was with this band that Henderson recorded his first album, 1973’s “Sextant.” That same year, Henderson made his debut as a leader with two successful albums, “Realization” and “Inside Out,” recorded for Capricorn Records.
Both of these albums showcased a funky-avant-garde, electric fusion style similar to what he played with Hancock’s band.
As time progressed, so too did Henderson’s style, which developed more into cross-over dance-fusion, earning his great acclaim in the U.K. with the hit, “Prance On,” from 1978’s album, “Mahal.”
This new style brought in fans of jazz, hip hop, and electric music, as it combined popular elements of all three. This same style was later criticized by some as “too commercial.”
In 1975, at the same time that his musical career began to take off, Henderson began to practice as a psychiatrist.
In 1985, following immense success as an artist, Henderson slowed production of solo albums to better focus on his psychiatric practice, though he still appeared on albums with drummer Billy Hart, singer Leon Thomas, and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Then in 1989, Henderson transitioned back once more into a full-time musician with the popular 1989 album, “Phantoms,” which featured Henderson’s new acoustic hard bop style.
Throughout the 90’s and today, Henderson harkens back to his time with Miles Davis while simultaneously presenting his original style from his years of performing, stating, “The best advice I’ve ever received was from Miles Davis when he told me to get my own style.”
Henderson still plays and records today, though he has not practiced psychiatry in over a decade.
About his life lived pursuing multiple careers he once said, “Follow your dreams and be persistent. They WILL come true.”