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Artist profiles: Henry Butler

Henry Butler

New Orleans pianist and vocalist Henry Butler is a virtuoso jazz, blues and r&b pianist, a schooled vocalist naturally imbued with gospel credibility a fierce r&b performer and an expressive composer. “Once I sit at the keyboard it’s right there,” says Butler “I have an instrument on which I can express anything I want.” Calling himself a perpetual “work in progress “ Butler is a classically trained vocalist a critically lauded jazz recording artist and an accomplished photographer (all the more stunning considering Butler has been blind since infancy).

Born in the musical hotbed of New Orleans, Louisiana, Butler was attracted to piano at a very young age. By the time he was seven he had joined the glee club at the Louisiana School for the Blind where he was already studying piano. He was gigging by the time he was 14 and went on to study voice in high school.

Butler attended Southern University in Baton Rouge where he fell under the spell of jazz giant Alvin Batiste who quickly became Butler’s mentor. Batiste taught Butler the importance of playing what’s in the mind’s eye to improvise. With Batiste’s help Butler began adding the jazz legacy of Art Tatum Bud Powell Charlie Parker and John Coltrane to the Crescent City r&b he’d absorbed from Eddie Bo Tommy Ridgley James Booker and Professor Longhair.

After graduating from college Butler plunged into performing around New Orleans playing his own mix of jazz and r&b. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Michigan State University before returning to New Orleans in 1974 where he began gigging with every important jazz and r&b musician in the city. While teaching at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts Butler spent a few very intense afternoons in the living room of Professor Longhair learning Fess’ shuffle patterns trills and parallel thirds and sixths. “Fess showed me how he approached the piano and mainly taught by demonstrating,” recalls Butler. “I listened and tried to emulate what he had shown me.”

Butler moved to Los Angeles in 198 where he gigged and worked as a talent development consultant for Motown Records and the Stevie Wonder organization. After sitting in with bassist Charlie Haden Butler’s fortunes changed. He recorded his first album Fivin’ Around for MCA/lmpulse! in 1986. After a second MCA/lmpulse! release The ½llage Butler’s reputation as an important force in the jazz world began earning him hordes of new friends and tans. Critics raved about virtuoso pianist who mixed soul with brains and about a live performer who consistently knocked audiences oft their feet with his scattering lightning-fast runs.

Butler recorded two albums for Windham Hill, 1990’s Orleans Improvisation and 1992’s Blues And More before heading back to New Orleans in 1996. He released For All Seasons that same year on Atlantic Jazz again to massive critical acclaim. He won the 1998 “Best Of The Beat” Award from OffBeat Magazine for Best New Orleans Piano Player and continues to impress critics fans and fellow musicians with his massive talents.

www.henrybutler.com

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Dr. John and Henry Butler to Perform at The Town Hall in NYC Tomorrow

Dr. John

Two of the finest performers of New Orleans Music are set to perform together at The Town Hall in New York City tomorrow, June 15, 2017. The concert is part of Blue Note Jazz Festival 2017.
Dr. John and Henry Butler will be accompanied by Dr. John’s acclaimed backing band, The Nitetrippers.

The latest work by multifaceted pianist and vocalist Dr. John is a 2-CD live set titled album, The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac and his Music, featuring well-known guests such as Bruce Springsteen, John Fogarty, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.

 

Henry Butler

 

Butler is one of the greatest blues pianists in the United States. His most recent album is Vipers Drag (2014), with trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein and The Hot 9. It includes recreations of classics by Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton.

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