Henry Butler in 2015
September 21, 1948|
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
July 2, 2018 (aged 69)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, New Orleans blues|
|Labels||Impulse!, Windham Hill, Basin Street|
Henry Butler (September 21, 1948 – July 2, 2018) was an American jazz pianist and photographer. Known for his technical skills at the piano, particularly versatile with both hands, Butler excelled in a number of sub-genres of jazz throughout his career.
He was known for his technique and his ability to play in many styles of music. In 1987, New York Times music critic Jon Pareles wrote that Butler "revels in fluency and facility, splashing chords all over the keyboard and streaking through solos with machine-gun articulation. In 1998, Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich described Butler as "an enormous intellect matched by unusual physical strength." Referred to by Dr. John as "the pride of New Orleans," Butler was his generation's representative in the Crescent City's lineage of piano players such as Professor Longhair, James Booker, Tuts Washington, and Jelly Roll Morton.
Butler was blinded by glaucoma in infancy. His musical training began at the Louisiana State School for the Blind, where he learned to play valve trombone, baritone horn and drums before focusing his talents on singing and piano. Butler was mentored at Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by clarinetist and educator Alvin Batiste. Butler later earned a master's degree in music at Michigan State University in 1974, and received the MSU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated Butler's home in the Gentilly section of New Orleans. His 1925 vintage Mason & Hamlin piano was wrecked by flood waters that rose to nearly eight feet inside his house.
In the wake of Katrina's damage, Butler left New Orleans and briefly relocated to Colorado, living first in Boulder and then Denver. He later spoke of that Colorado period as "a trying exile." In 2009, Butler relocated again to New York City.
Butler pursued photography as a hobby since 1984, as an outgrowth of attending art exhibits in Los Angeles and asking friends to describe featured works. His methods and photos were featured in an HBO2 documentary, Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers, that aired in 2010. Butler's photographs were also shown in galleries in New Orleans.
With James Carter
With Corey Harris
With Steven Bernstein
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