Henry Butler

PiaNOLA Live

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AllMusic Review by

This is the first solo album Butler has ever cut, and one has to wonder why. It was cut live at various venues over the last 20 years, and with no liner notes it's impossible to tell if you're listening to the post-Katrina Butler at a club near his new home in Denver, or a New Orleans gig from the mid-'80s, not that you can tell the difference. The strong, rolling left-hand bass rhythms and playful right-hand arpeggios are in evidence in every track. "Orleans Interpretations," an original tune, echoes the Crescent City sounds of fonky jazz, rock, R&B, and second line strut. Butler sings both the bass and tenor parts of "Mother-in-Law." You can almost see him smiling as he launches into a scatted horn solo before taking the tune home. He gives Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" a slow, bluesy arrangement that accents the song's heartbroken feeling. He plays solemn left-handed gospel chords and drops in a few devil may care chuckles here and there to relieve his high, moaning vocals. The piano work and bluesy vocal on "You Are My Sunshine" makes it sound like a storm is brewing. Ominous rumbling bass chords compliment the sprinkling rainy right-hand arpeggios that bring the tune to a quiet conclusion. "Tipitina" gets an extended workout that starts slow and builds to a frenzied two-hand attack on the piano's upper registers that has the crowd shrieking and gasping. "North American Idiosyncrasies" closes the set with a slow blues full of rippling right-hand runs.

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