Within a refined setting of easy listening pop ballads and lightly funky up-tempo selections produced by Al McKay, Henderson proves himself an assured vocalist with mastery of clarity and phrasing. The problem here is the material isn't challenging enough – it's often formulaic and derivative of other early-'80s releases. Even a contribution from Stevie Wonder, "Crush on You," wanders into oblivion. But the singer's debonair tone and elegant, polished diction makes the weaker sound stronger. A perfect example is the mid-tempo "I'd Rather Be Gone," which suffers from a sleepy melody and clichéd rhythm arrangement.
Listening to Sketches of Life is something like finding a diamond midway through a box of Cracker Jack. It starts off with some typically easygoing midtempo quiet storm action that offers more cinders than real fire, but then it suddenly explodes with soul, jazz, and fusion – and some of the leader's finest performances this side of the old Crusaders. Henderson's trombone turbulence finds willing support from friends old (saxman Wilton Felder) and new (Rob Mullins, Dwight Sills), and these all-stars stretch the limits of the pop side of jazz. Especially impressive is Lee Oskar's bluesy, Toots Thielemans-styled harmonica playing. Henderson could do just fine without the rap and chant, but otherwise, he leads a fun-filled cruise through adventureland.
Trombonist Wayne Henderson has had a surprisingly sporadic solo career. During his years with the Jazz Crusaders, he only led two record dates of his own, and it was not until a decade after he left the group that he led his third session. Henderson does take some fine solos on this generally rewarding disc, which also features tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder (his old section mate in the Crusaders), keyboardist Rob Mullins, and guitarist Dwight Sills. The release, which is subtitled "The Next Crusade," is an extension of Henderson's old band, and the selections range from straight-ahead (including "Joshua") to soul-jazz and some funkier sounds. Worth picking up, although this CD will probably be difficult to find.
A jazz and pop vocalist born in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 28, 1962, Caroline Henderson would move to Copenhagen in 1983 and become one of Denmark's top talents. Her first taste of fame and fortune in her new home came about in 1989, as part of the group RayDeeOh, with Maria Bramsen. That group soon came to an end, and Henderson was left to fend for herself. In 1995 she released the first of many albums, Cinemataztic, and began to work in television and film, as well as acting in plays. Her follow-up full-length, Metamorphing, hit stores in 1998, and was followed over the next ten years by five more albums, all of which (Dolores J in 2000, NAOS in 2002, Don't Explain in 2003, Made in Europe in 2004, and Love or Nothin' in 2007) built upon the success of their predecessors. In March of 2008 Henderson released album number eight, No. 8, which was a Top Five hit in Denmark. Apart from her commercial successes, Henderson also won Denmark's Grammy for Best Vocal Recording in 2007 for her work on the album Love or Nothin'.