Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bill Henderson: Jazz with a Smiling Voice

I’ve been a Bill Henderson fan foreveror at least since the days when was Joey was in steady rotation on Symphony Sid’s midnight jazz show on WADO in New York City. I owned his first album on Vee Jay records, his Verve recording with Oscar Peterson, and have picked up various other recordings over the years. About 10 years ago, Henderson appeared at the Kennedy Center and I was all over it. He did a fine show and, amazingly, his voice was just as it was when he did Joeysomeone in the audience called it out as a request and Henderson laughed and said the requester was going WAY back. The guy sitting next to me summed it up: “He sounds exactly the same”!

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Check out Bill Henderson’s last recording: Live at the Vic, made in 2007, just after he  turned 81. It’s not a great record just because his voice sounds so youthful, though. It's because his sound and phrasing are so delightful. The best way to put it is that Henderson always sang with a smile in his voicesometimes joyous, often wry, and occasionally melancholy, but always warmly there.  Some of the high points of this recording include a great version of Never Make Your Move Too Soon, an extraordinary extended version of That Old Black Magic, and some of his personal standards, like A Sleeping Bee and You Are My Sunshine. I haven’t enjoyed a jazz vocal album so much in a long time.

There’s not a whole lot from this album on line, but The Song is You is pretty representative. I hope you enjoy it and check out more Bill Henderson.

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