Over the last decade, Henry Butler has established himself as the finest all-around pianist in New Orleans. Butler’s diverse style finds him equally at home in jazz, blues, R&B, and New Orleans funk and he plays each with masterful precision. The virtuosic pianist is also a schooled vocalist, an expressive composer and a fierce performer who can play with as much passion as a soloist as he can with a band. The piano genius continues to push himself in new directions as a musician, continually blending the old with the new.
Born in the musical hotbed of New Orleans, Butler found himself attracted to the piano at a very young age. While attending the Louisiana School for the blind he began his formal education in music by taking piano lessons, as well as studying drums, baritone saxophone, and valve trombone. By the age of fourteen he was playing professionally in Baton Rouge, and went on to study voice in high school before enrolling in Southern University. It was here that Butler fell under the spell of jazz giant Alvin Batiste, who quickly became his mentor. 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.
Butler has several albums to his credit, beginning with his debut on the MCA/Impulse! Label in 1986. Since that time he has produced albums with the now-defunct Windham Hill Jazz label, the Atlantic Jazz label and Black Top Records. In 2000 Butler collaborated with bluesman Corey Harris to release an album for Alligator Records.
Henry Butler released his album, The Game Has Just Begun, on Basin Street Records in early 2002. On this album, Butler takes his musical exploration a step further with an all out electric recording. June Yamagishi and Shane Theriot lay down some blistering tracks on guitar and Butler’s strong vocal delivery is present throughout the album. The disc features many original songs, including the title track, “This is Where I Live”, and “Mac Daddy Henry”, plus a soulful cover of “You Are My Sunshine” and the hard hitting “Great Balls of Fire”, that led JazzReview.com to call the album “pure Louisiana blues magic.”
His newest release, Homeland, was released by Basin Street Records on April 2004 in time for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which includes the title track, “Homeland” as well as the tracks, “Jump To The Music”, “Henry’s Boogie”, “ The Way We Loved”, “Hey Little Girl” and “Casino”.