Henry Butler



Biography

A four-time W.C. Handy “Best Blues Instrumentalist - Piano” award nominee, Henry Butler knows no limitations. Although blinded by glaucoma since birth, Butler is also a world class photographer with his work displayed at exhibitions throughout the United States. Playing piano since the age of six, Butler is a master of musical diversity. Combining the percussive jazz piano playing of McCoy Tyner and the New Orleans style playing of Professor Longhair through his classically-trained wizardry, Butler continues to craft a sound uniquely his own. A rich amalgam of jazz, Caribbean, classical, pop, blues and R&B influences, his music is as excitingly eclectic as that of his New Orleans birthplace.

Mastering baritone horn, valve trombone and drums, in addition to the piano, at the Louisiana State School for the Blind in Baton Rouge, as a youngster, Butler began formal vocal training in the eleventh grade. He went on to sing German lieder, French and Italian art songs and operatic arias at Southern and Michigan State Universities, earning a Masters degree in vocal music. He has taught music workshops throughout the country and initiated a number of different educational projects, including a residential jazz camp at Missouri State School for the Blind and a program for blind and visually impaired students at the University of New Orleans.

Mentored by influential jazz clarinetist and Michigan University teacher Alvin Batiste, Butler was encouraged to explore Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and other Caribbean music. With Batiste’s help, he successfully applied for National Endowment for the Arts grants to study with keyboard players George Duke, then with Cannonball Adderly’s Quintet, and the late Sir Roland Hanna. He studied with Harold Mabern, pianist for the late Lee Morgan, for a summer and spent a long afternoon studying with Professor Longhair.

Watch Past Performances

Video 6/12/2010: 2010 International VSA Festival Closing Concert

Performances by Papa Henry Butler's Steamin' Syncopators and Raul Midón. Papa Henry Butler's Steamin' Syncopators, an ensemble devoted to the revival of 1920s steamboat jazz, is led by the New Orleans pianist. The group's members represent lifetimes of New Orleans traditional jazz: trumpeter Mark Braud, clarinetist Tom Fischer, trombonist Freddy Lonzo, drummer Troy Davis, banjoist Amy Sharpe, and bassist Mark Brooks. Raul Midón is a contemporary soul singer whose impassioned acoustic guitar playing--a mix of rock, classical, and flamenco--has gotten him just as much attention as his smooth voice. Part of the 2010 International VSA Festival.

Henry Butler