If you love New Orleans-style piano or simply subscribe to joy, the music of Henry Butler would be welcome in your home. Gospel, old school rhythm and blues, Caribbean-tinged jazz and, of course, that signature syncopated New Orleans sound made renowned by musical luminaries like Jellyroll Morton and Professor Longhair–Butler could play it all.
And he did.
His playing challenges the ears, turning well-known standards up on their ends to show listeners what's inside of them. Sadly, we're all given our time to go. There'll be no more Henry Butler for us to enjoy, save what has already been recorded. Butler died in a hospice facility this week, in Brooklyn. He was 69 years old.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Butler commanded the syncopated power and splashy filigree of boogie-woogie and gospel and the rolling polyrhythms of Afro-Caribbean music. He could also summon the elegant delicacy of classical piano or hurtle toward the dissonances and atonal clusters of modern jazz. He could play in convincing vintage styles and sustain multileveled counterpoint, then demolish it all in a whirlwind of genre-smashing virtuosity.
As The New York Times' obituary of Butler points out, Dr. John once called Butler "the pride of New Orleans and a visionistical down-home cat and a hellified piano plunker to boot."
Knowing that his playing will inspire generations of musicians in the decades to come feels like cold comfort in the wake of the loss of such a talent.
The older I get, the stranger it feels to watch as the musicians who inspire me fall to the ravages of time. I can't imagine who will fill their shoes. There's never be another Joe Strummer.There is no hope for another Johnny Cash. The lost of such sounds in a world so desperately in need of hope and joy, feel overwhelming at times. I'll be listening to what Henry Butler I own today, along with a lot of other artists that feel my days with music.
Folks, what's your go-to music? Who do you fear to lose?