Henry Butler / Dr. Michael White Quartet at Merkin Hall
Henry Butler / Dr. Michael White Quartet with Maurice Brown will play at the opening season concert at Merkin Concert Hall Saturday, September 2, 2006. Opening concert unites and salutes New Orleans giants, all of whom withstood devastating losses after Hurricane Katrina, just one year ago. The preeminent jazz pianist of New Orleans, Henry Butler, also trained as an opera singer, offers a remarkable solo performance.
Professor and clarinetist Dr. Michael White and his quartet - Gregory Stafford on trumpet/vocals; Detroit Brooks on banjo and Roland Guerin on bass - crack open Crescent City chestnuts and make them new again. The evening focuses on New Orleans jazz from the 1920's through the present, which includes classics from King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton, plus songs from the New Orleans Revival period. New, original work will be presented, inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Trumpet phenom Maurice Brown, who studied intensely with the esteemed New Orleans professor Alvin Batiste, adds his young, vigorous voice in an intimate duo with Butler, and then with White's quartet. Brown has been hailed by Downbeat as "one of the most exciting young trumpeters in jazz."
This engaged performance will be hosted by author and critic Ashley Kahn, who recently returned from the Big Easy after a book tour. He will report on New Orleans's reconstruction efforts and conduct on-stage interviews with the artists, some of which have relocated to rebuild their lives in other cities.
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 continues to push himself in new directions as a musician - continually blending the old with the new. Born in New Orleans, he began his formal education in music while attending the Louisiana School for the Blind, studying piano, drums, baritone saxophone and valve trombone. By the age of 14 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 for Windham Hill Jazz, Atlantic Jazz, Black Top Records and Alligator Records.
New Orleans native Dr. Michael White has primarily led an urban life as a jazz musician and professor at Xavier University where he teaches African-American Music and holds an endowed chair in the humanities department. White began playing clarinet in classical settings and moved on to perform with brass bands, including the Fairview Baptist Church Band that was established by the noted banjoist/guitarist/author Danny Barker. His earliest contact with traditional jazz bands was hearing veteran musicians such as clarinetist Willie Humphrey and Louis Cottrell at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. With the passing of most of the older artists, White has since surrounded himself with like-minded peers and next-generation musicians. He has gained notoriety as an informed purveyor of New Orleans traditional jazz as a gifted musician, composer, educator and historian. Long respected in his hometown and in classic jazz enclaves around the world, he enjoyed further recognition through his association with Wynton Marsalis.
2005 Big Easy Awards for Contemporary Jazz recipient, trumpeter Maurice Brown was contacted during his first semester at Northern Illinois University by the great Clark Terry to join him in Europe and aboard the QE2, where Brown was able to sit in with jazz luminaries Oscar Peterson, Nicholas Payton, Lou Donaldson, Etta Jones and Houston Person. Since then, the 25-year-old, Illinois-born trumpeter has worked with Elvin Jones, Johnny Griffin, Frank Morgan, Ellis Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Roy Hargrove, among others. He won first place in the National Miles Davis Trumpet Competition and in 2004 released his debut as a leader, entitled Hip To Bop. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans transplant appeared weekly at Snug Harbor Bistro, New Orleans' premier jazz club. He now makes his home in New York City.
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