Henry Butler

Blues After Sunset

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The line of innovative New Orleans piano players who serve as conduits for fusing genres is continued with this release by Henry Butler. Here he approaches his music for the first time primarily as a blues performer, rather than as a jazz musician playing blues. He is an extraordinary performer who has put together all the years of growing up in the Crescent City, with its diverse musical heritage, his training in piano and voice from the Louisiana State School for the Blind, his continued musical education at Southern University, and the post-graduate work in voice (singing German lieder) at Michigan State, and fused it into one cohesive whole. All the flavors are there and distinct when you look for them, but put together they form a cohesive whole that provokes more thought than the individual parts would. Listen to his terrifying vocals and the support his piano provides for them on his version of "Death Has No Mercy." The tune has always had a chill, but he puts it into another realm that brings up vivid images of the Angels of Death swooping on down. He is joined on several cuts by Snooks Eaglin on guitar and Mark Kazanoff on harmonica, who provide an empathetic support that enhances and helps carry these tunes to further reaches. On "Tetherball," he and Kazanoff play off each other, whirl around each other in an orbit that at times stretches way out there before coming back to this plane at the end of the song, just as the ball rolls up tight against the pole. Henry Butler does it all on this superlative disc -- he co-produced it, wrote eight of the 12 songs, did all of the arranging, and provided vocals and piano. This is a disc that should not be missed at any cost.

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