Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bruce Henry Live! at the Jazz Showcase...Review

I caught the extraordinary vocalist, Bruce Henry LIVE!.. in debut at 
The Jazz Showcase in Chicago on Wednesday, September 10, 2014. 
It was an exceptional presentation of a JaZZ roux spiced  with  
global flavors. 

If you haven't heard Bruce Henry…he is an absolute joy to listen to…with a deep rich voice..coupled with a three octave range. His ability to sing just flows!  
His rich voice reminds me of a musical cup of dark, rich cappuccino
Just imagine if the actor, James Earl Jones decided to sing JaZZ.♪♫•*¨*•♪♫•*¨*•wooohoooh.

In his creativity, Henry tends to take standards and create unique arrangements around the lyrics and the melody. Last night, he floored us with his vocalese' in the tradition of Leon Thomas, King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson and Al Jarreau and for many Chicago jazz fans, we haven't heard this kind of sound since the late stellar  Jazz  vocalist, Luba Rashiek  was scatting around town. Hmmmmm….

 Bruce Henry started his 10 o'clock set with a lively and funky rendition of  
"Nature Boy", "On The Street Where You Live" and a beautiful upbeat treatment of  "Softy As In A Morning Sunrise"…

Henry was singing… singing the classical Jazz standards and transporting us  
back to a quieter, gentle time in Jazz… to  a moment  when one could feel like the spirits of Nat King Cole or Billy Eckstein had entered the room….

At some  point in his  creativity.. Bruce entered into a beautiful portal …an ethereal realm….as he  levitated the milieu by singing a stunning spiritual treatment on one of Duke Ellington's sacred works on GOD… 

Bruce Henry continued his spiritual ascension when he began singing 
John Coltrane's "Equinox"…. 
singing lyrics as powerful as the melody…
                                                                     with a poignancy that pierced the soul
                                                                                     as only Coltrane can….

    "The world spins around us 
  We search for a balance
  The secrets lie in darkness and light…..
Our lives are like treasures..
Unveiled as perfection
A gift to us from Spirits on high….Spirits on high…

Then.. the yodeling of his voice and modal chords and the arpeggiated lines on the piano began to transport us back to a time and space… 
when incense was wafting smells of Jasmine and Patchuoli… 
and music flowing like this…. 
enveloped us into trance of light and sound…..

Back 2 a time when the  musical…mystical..sounds of pianist, 
McCoy Tyner's modal excursons…defined the sound of free Jazz….
a time  when Coltrane's,  A Love Supreme was played over and over
at a loft party... where the food was vegan…and Sangria was served... 
A time when &  the sound of Pharaoh Sanders sax 
mixed with the voice of Leon Thomas yodeling…
The Creator Has A Master Plan ... was THE sound of summer…

Meanwhile... back 2 the present….
The lineup of the  Henry's ensemble at the Jazz Showcase included some Chicago's own , William Kurk on piano and keyboard,  the fiery Charles Heath on drums, Chuck Webb on bass and Ernest Khabeer Dawkins on saxophone.

The mellow cool of  Bassist, Chuck Webb and  the heat of Avante-garde 
Saxophonist, Ernest Khabeer Dawkins brought a contrast  of Chicago Jazz flavors to the ensemble.

Bruce Henry made Chick Corea's Spain ala' the Al Jarreau version…  simply dance with energy!
I had to sing along!

" You gaze at me
I see moments of history
Your eyes meet mine
and they dance to the melody
And we live again
As if dreaming
The sound of our hearts beat like castanets
And forever we'll know their meaning..". 
Lyrics from Spain…

Bruce Henry
Henry originally hails from Chicago but has spent many years in the Minneapolis area and tours with his ensemble. 

Bruce's music has taken him to five continents and he has recorded for Disney, HBO and numerous national ad campaigns. In addition he has performed with and opened for the likes of Doc Severinson, Roberta Flack, Chris Botti, Ramsey Lewis, Stephane Grapelli, Jimmy Jam and The Sounds of Blackness.

I had the honor to play with Bruce Henry  musically.. many, many moons ago in Minneapolis and he was just as polished and impeccable as he now.  What a joy it was to hear this rich voice grace the classic, intimate  stage of the Jazz Showcase. We can only hope that this is the beginning of many more performances for Bruce Henry  at this  venue.

All photos and by Aki Antonia c2014
All rights Reserved.

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