Nineteen year old Kalen Henry explodes onto the scene with her debut album, “Not Forgotten”, an exploration of the love songs from the catalog of Nat King Cole. Ms. Henry explores these classic love songs with spacious country and pop instrumentation that perfectly supports her sultry Norah Jones-style voice. The result is a current presentation of classic jazz standards that intimates at every turn Joni Mitchell’s folk-pop exploration into the jazz world.
The idea for this project came simply from a high school choir final that Ms. Henry performed with her father, Trey Henry. The duo performed “Orange Colored Sky” (track 3) and the response encouraged her to explore her growing love of Nat King Cole’s work. “I decided to take the ten love songs that I love the most and order them in a way that depicts a love story”, says Ms. Henry.
“Not Forgotten strikes the perfect balance between old and new”, says Trey Henry. Mr. Henry, Kalen’s father, is a renowned bass player, arranger, producer and performer. He has logged performance credits over the years with Henry Mancini, Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles and Natalie Cole to name just a few. Performing with the Tierney Sutton Band, he has recorded eight albums earning five Grammy nominations. Mr. Henry produced, arranged and played bass on “Not Forgotten”.
“Not Forgotten” opens with “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, written by Nat King Cole in 1943. The song spent ten weeks on the Hit Parade and was number 1 on the pop charts. It is based on a folk tale that Mr. Cole’s father told as a theme for one of his sermons. The track opens to an ambient, ringing foundation when Ms. Henry enters with the fable. Her sultry jazz-pop, resonant mood is immediately head-turning. As the song builds, the listener is treated to bluegrass-tinged, guitar and mandolin (Paul Viapiano - The Chemistry of Crying, LA Philharmonic) based feel and a groove that really moves the audience.
The fourth track on “Not Forgotten” leads with a rhythmic acoustic guitar and follows with Kalen Henry’s haunting expression of awe at the purity and emotion in her love’s eyes. Simple and sweet, the song builds with bass and drums (Ray Brinker - Maynard Ferguson, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole) supporting perfectly the pulsating guitar. The mood escalates but never spills over and leaves the audience captivated as Ms. Henry sails the mystery of “your eyes...your eyes...your eyes...”.
“Not Forgotten” by Kalen Henry is the best debut album that you will hear this year. It is the most listenable fusion of jazz, pop and country since Alison Krauss burst onto the scene...and pop-folk radio is long overdue. Kalen Henry’s tribute raises the bar to ensure that Nat King Cole is “Not Forgotten”.
“I'm living the dream, I'd say” - Kalen Henry
Blue Canoe Records has released “Look Beyond The Rain” from veteran piano man Bob Thompson and The Bob Thompson Band. Mr. Thompson brings the optimism in a funky way with the help of legendary producer and long-time friend, Buzz Amato (Curtis Mayfield, Ben E. King, Kriss Kross). Referring to the theme of the album, Thompson asserts, “It is going to rain sometime on your life but you have to look beyond that. This music spreads love and makes people feel good.”
Bob Thompson is a performer, band leader, and educator and is a staple in the music of West Virginia. A native of New York, Mr. Thompson came to West Virginia to study trumpet at West Virginia State University. In 1991, Bob joined the West Virginia Public Broadcasting's ground breaking "Mountain Stage", as house pianist and featured artist. He is also co-producer of Joy To The World, a Holiday Jazz Show broadcast on public radio nationwide (since 1992), heard internationally on Voice Of America and was just inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2015. He has played all over the world with diverse artists including Bunky Green, Larry Coryell and recorded with Omar Hakim, Gerald Veasley and Kevin Eubanks.
“Look Beyond The Rain” opens with “Time 2 B One” and reveals Bob Thompson dancing along an exhilarating melody. After a few bars John Inghram (bass) and Tim Courts (drums) lay down a solid funk groove cued by the piano’s opening. The opening track unfolds into a floating solo by Doug Payne (sax), a driving solo from Ryan Kennedy (guitar) and again from Mr. Thompson with a supporting solo that brings them all together. The exchange between them resolves by the end in a dreamy fade that leaves the listener wanting more.
Possibly the most notable on the compilation is “The Swamp Stomp”. This time the listener is guided through the groove by a joyous and melodic theme on the saxophone. Again the rhythm section throws down a solid, funky groove and the listener is treated to delightful lick-swapping by some of the most talented musicians that the Eastern United States has to offer. The juxtaposition of the funk groove, wafting sax, beautifully linear fender rhodes and driving rock guitar really exposes the influences of this diverse group of individuals and melds into a solid singular voice.
“Look Beyond The Rain” is a joyful experience, no doubt about it. These incredibly talented musicians have a way of delivering accessible melody, touching the heart of the listener and not overcomplicating things. Like any great artists, they make it look easy. “Look Beyond The Rain” is a must-listen for fans of jazz, rock, blues and funk. These songs will stir emotion and leave the listener...optimistic.
Spotify Playlists from Blue Canoe Records. Adding and updating frequently: https://open.spotify.com/user/bluecanoerecords
Blue Canoe Records latest release from Trey Wright is a ripping set of originals that moves from solid, classic jazz to sweet, sympathetic ballads with ease. The compositions on Songs From Oak Avenue deserve notice as does the playing of this group of veterans.
Songs from Oak Avenue is Mr. Wright’s second solo release on Blue Canoe Records and his follow-up to Thinking Out Loud (2009). This release is comprised of brilliant melodies and creative interaction with the sparse instrumentation. Each player, including Atlanta-based Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Mace Hibbard and expert rhythm section Marc Miller (bass) and Marlon Patton (drums/engineer), is given ample space to express ideas freely and dynamically…and all do so with mindful abandon. Mr. Wright is a jazz guitarist, composer and recording artist based in Roswell, GA. He is the co-founder of the Athens/Atlanta based jam band Squat. The group is a six-time winner of Best Jazz Band at the Flagpole Athens Music Awards and has been a featured artist at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Bel Chere, The Twilight Athens Jazz Festival, The Cherry Blossom Festival, Harvest Midtown and Athfest. Several of Mr. Wright’s compositions with the group have received international airplay and have been featured on Sirius/XM radio and NPR’s All Things Considered.
Mr. Wright also performs freelance in the Athens and Atlanta area and has performed with Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, Corey Christiansen and Darmon Meader of the New York Voices. He has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazz A Vienne and the World Sacred Music Festival in Bangalore, India. As a solo guitarist and with his trio, Mr. Wright has been a featured performer at the Athens Music and Arts Festival, The Lake Oconee Jazz Festival and the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Additionally, Mr. Wright is the guitar instructor at Kennesaw State University based in Kennesaw, GA.
Songs From Oak Avenue opens powerfully with “Boomerang”. Sam Skelton’s lush, industrious saxophone swings against Marc Miller’s walking bass pulse while Wright injects color in support of the melody. As the track unfolds, Mr. Skelton’s easily accessible melody expands to more challenging improvisational licks until finally giving way to a soaring electric solo from Trey Wright. The track ends in back and forth between the two that alternates between conversational style and a doubling of melody that ends the track as a warm invitation for the rest of Songs From Oak Avenue.
“Joni” is another distinguished track that highlights the talents of Trey Wright. “It is named and inspired by Joni Mitchell”, says Wright. “I have always been fascinated with her music…I was trying to emulate the floating feel and stream of consciousness approach of her music.” It opens with a subdued melody and tastefully chosen introduction to the inspirational talents of Grammy winner Mace Hibbard on the sax. The middle of this more contemporary tune this talented group is firing on all cylinders with all fully engaged and pushing each other forward against a rhythm section that delivers with forceful musicality.
Songs From Oak Avenue is a thoughtful, distinct offering put together by a group of veteran players that bring the right vibe at the right time. It is tastefully improvised and spacious while simultaneously thick and substantive. Trey Wright and his team are a group to be watched and Songs From Oak Avenue is an album to be heard…again and again.