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When asked about the affinity many have towards sad music, Nicole Henry says, “I’d hate to say that you have to be in pain to feel stuff… but it’s true.” Henry continued by mentioning the positive response she gets from her audience when she sings up-tempo songs, adding, “that’s the thing about jazz: you can be happy and make it move people just as much.” It’s safe to say that in Henry’s vocal facility and musical talent she has successfully managed to find a comfortable equilibrium between genre creating a space all her own. Her sound encompasses the heart-wrenched blues with sparks of pop and of course, woven at the center is the smooth, malleability of her jazz interpretation.
Henry joins WERS live in the studio for Secret Spot and her smile is wide, radiating an ease and comfort as she settles into the room. She navigates gracefully between conversation and warming up for her performance of songs which she refers to as “mellow ballads.” Henry came to appreciate jazz back in the early 2000′s and she now says, “I’m going to sing jazz forever.” She shifts between a variety of genre with finesse, periodically fusing her self-composed works with a touch of R&B as well.
Joined by pianist Brandon McCune, the two dive into the first song, “The Nearness of You.” As the title track to her first album (she’s recently just released her fourteenth), it’s one she holds dear to her heart. She explained it’s the very first song she recalls falling in love to. Henry went on to explain how the sentiments represented in the song reflect the one-hundred percent acceptance of another human being—which is the closest definition she can find for love. Her vocals then gently cascaded into her microphone and the piano work twirled between her vowels as she sang, “I need no soft lights to enchant me.”
Next, she performed one of her very own songs, “A Little Time Alone.” The tone was bittersweet, and with a tamed fragility Henry sang, “I stand below a crowded room knowing all too soon, you’re going.” Her annunciation synced perfectly with the staccatoed piano notes in the whirling build-ups that reveal her strong unwavering voice. Here, a gospel influence is evident and Henry’s past experience with choirs is present in both her sound and gestures.
Henry wrapped up the session with a rendition of Vincent Youman’s “More than You Know.” Between each drawn note Henry’s bright smile is exposed and the pleasure she takes in every word is heard in the melody of her delicate trill, “Whether you remain or wander, I’m growing fonder of you.”
As the session came to a close, Henry was asked what current pop radio hit she would consider doing a jazz rendition of. She took a moment to contemplate and before mentioning her admiration for Bruno Mars and expressing her excitement for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” But of course, she adds how there is already quite a long list of songs both old and new that she is waiting to learn and turn into her own. In the meantime, Henry’s current renditions and compositions unveil a perfect harmony of tenderness and force. It appears whether if it’s from past or present, if the emotions are heavy or bright, Nicole Henry’s touch knows how to strike a balance that is golden.