Ghosts Of The Sun (Sunnyside)

Bill McHenry

Released November 22, 2011

Top 10 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll 2011




The best method to amass critical attention is to stand apart from the crowd. Occasionally, an artist comes along who can diverge from the expected and catch the imagination of listeners while doing what comes instinctively. Saxophonist/composer Bill McHenry has developed his own unique sound and approach to the jazz tradition that has set him apart from his peers.
The breadth of McHenry’s art is vast and varied. His lush tenor saxophone tone echoes the past masters like Coleman Hawkins while his advanced technique enables him to reach the furthest plains of contemporary experimentation. His abilities have made it possible for McHenry to perform alongside many legends and contemporary greats, including Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, John McNeil, Andrew Cyrille and Guillermo Klein.

McHenry’s ensemble leadership and compositional skills are well known amongst his associates but deserve further praise. He shows his faculty on his latest Sunnyside CD, Ghosts of the Sun (Nov. 22, 2011). Utilizing an all-star ensemble of a handful of his favorite collaborators, McHenry presents a diverse, exemplary program of original compositions that illustrate his tunefulness and unique abstraction. The group, featuring drummer Paul Motian, bassist Reid Anderson and guitarist Ben Monder, navigate the leader’s freely structured rhapsodies with amazing results.
The tunes strike a balance between impressionism, modernism and folk-like tunefulness. “Ms. Polley” slinks hazily under the gauze of Monder’s guitar and McHenry’s resonant sax. “La Fuerza” follows with an ardent melodic statement, which is furthered on “Anti Heroes, ” a longer composition with poignant solos and a jolting backbeat from Anderson and Motian. Melancholy permeates over the quietly introspective “Ghosts of the Sun.”

The stark “Little One” weaves a flowing singsong melody that builds throughout the piece with augmentations from the ensemble. McHenry’s brawny tone and improvisatory prowess are featured on “William III,” a forceful title that features Monder’s over driven guitar. “Lost Song” enters as a somber guitar and sax ballad, introducing space for Anderson’s lopping bass and Monder’s twang. The bustling “Roses II” reprises the theme from McHenry’s last solo outing (Roses, 2008) with an eruption of energy.
Ghosts of the Sun is a striking document of McHenry’s vast resources as composer, performer and improviser. 

Track Listing:

1. Ms. Polley 08:25

2. La Fuerza 04:07

3. Anti Heroes 08:40

4. Ghosts of the Sun 05:45

5. William (Drums) 02:01

6. Little One 03:16

7. William III 05:04

8. Lost Song 06:51

9. Roses II 03:26


Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone
Ben Monder: guitar
Reid Anderson: bass
Paul Motian: drums

Recorded December 20 – 21, 2006, at Avatar Studio B, New York 

Producer: Bill McHenry

Engineer: Aya Takemura

Mixing: Peter Rende

Mastering: Randy Merrill

Cover Painting: Georgia Elrod

Graphic Design: Christopher Drukker


The tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry improvises like a child, and that’s a compliment. Sometimes, there are guidelines to interpret; sometimes, the rules are there to be ignored. But usually, there is the anchor of a splendidly rough-hewn melody, as there often are on Ghosts of the Sun, his third album with this particular quartet. This collection, recorded in 2006 but misfiled for years in his mother’s house, will also go down as one of the last released documents of the late drummer Paul Motian. Motian’s mysterious ability to imply time, but float freely around it, is all over this record; it brings out the best in a group of kindred spirits half his age.

Patrick Jarenwattananon (npr)