Bill Henderson

Tribute to Johnny Mercer

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Ernie Andrews, Johnny Hartman, Arthur Prysock and Bill Henderson all have at least one thing in common. None of them ever achieved the recognition their talent deserved. While they have physical vocal and stylistic differences -- Henderson does not have the deep smooth Hartman baritone; but Hartman is nowhere as hip as Henderson -- all of them have received scant attention from those who control the world of recording. This Johnny Mercer tribute is the last of three albums Henderson made for the Discovery label. He is joined by rather unusual backing, two pianos, one of them electric, and Joey Baron's uncharacteristically quiet drums. Yet this arrangement suits Henderson's approach to Mercer's lyrics very nicely. "Blues in the Night" becomes a fervent sermon delivered by an evangelical preacher as Dave Mackay's electric piano sets the mood with the sound of an organ. In contrast, on "I Remember You," Mackay's electric gadget becomes a celeste. The album's highlight is the medley of "My Shining Hour" and "I Thought About You." Henderson takes the first song easing out at the end without a pause as Joyce Collins comes in with "I Thought About You." The track ends with Henderson and Collins alternating the lines of their respective tunes, but never singing together, providing a different, but pleasing, approach for a duet. Henderson shows his ability to take a routine, and perhaps even subpar, tune like "Hooray for Hollywood" and turn it into a slow, poignant lament. Would not jazz vocal devotees be better served if an enterprising record company combined Henderson's three Discovery albums into a two-CD release? Regrettably that's probably a rhetorical question and these same fans will have to search the flea markets, used record bins, or check with the many purveyors of vinyl on the Internet for this LP.

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