Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's Englewood Cliffs studio just nine days before John Coltrane's A LOVE SUPREME, Joe Henderson's INNER URGE bears some resemblance to Coltrane's later work. This is no surprise since Henderson employed McCoy Tyner (piano) and Elvin Jones (drums) for this album, and these musicians were already forming the concepts they would unleash on the Coltrane session. But the music on INNER URGE is unique, too, namely in its improvisational approach. Henderson and company span the gaps between hard-bop and avant-garde jazz with greater ease and cohesiveness than many of their contemporaries, a quality best evidenced on the title track.
INNER URGE was Henderson's fourth date as a leader for Blue Note Records, and the first time he set out to record without his trusted friend, trumpeter Kenny Dorham. This release features "Isotope," now a well-known Henderson tune, and a lively version of the standard "Night and Day." Clearly the record's most memorable track, however, is the explorative "El Barrio," a droning piece that offers listeners a plethora of rich musical textures, modal detours, and percussive explosions.