HENRY BUTLER – STEVEN BERNSTEIN & THE HOT 9
Henry Butler is the heir to the great piano tradition established by exceptional musicians from New Orleans, from Champion Jack Dupree to Allen Toussaint and Fats Domino. He was born in the Crescent City in 1949, and lived there until Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home, his piano and his personal archives (today he lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.) Blind from birth, Henry Butler learned piano at the age of six, but the drums, baritone saxophone and valve trombone are also familiar acquaintances. In New Orleans he was lucky to take advantage of the teachings of such local stars as Alvin Baptiste, Professor Longhair or James Booker, but his other sustenance includes the special groove — a spicy mix of blues and funk — dispensed by others who were more jazz-oriented, namely Sir Roland Hanna or Cannonball Adderley (thanks to the latter he also met George Duke.) Henry Butler’s quasi-veteran style — albeit with a young man’s fire — makes him immediately recognizable, not only in the richness of his playing but also in his stand-out personality, which typifies the greatest. Percussive and technical, he’s a pianist who scorns clichés in marrying the virtuosity of an Art Tatum with the soulful feeling of an Allen Toussaint. Like the latter, he also shows himself to be a touching, generous singer, as fans of the Treme series have discovered thanks to his performance of « Mama Roux » in the series’ second season. As for his already flourishing discography, Henry began recording under his own name in 1986 for MCA/impulse!, accompanied by no less than Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter or Jack DeJohnette. In parallel, Henry Butler has made a commitment to teaching music, particularly with regard to young non-sighted musicians. He is also the author of a photographic opus as recognized as it is singular (and notable as the object of the recent film-documentary Dark Light: the Art of Blind Photographers).
Steven Bernstein, born in Washington D.C. in 1961, is a trumpeter, conductor, musical director, arranger and composer. A virtuoso jazz instrumentalist known for his originality (he plays a slide trumpet like nobody else), Steven featured brilliantly with Sex Mob, the Millennial Territory Orchestra and the Spanish Fly trio — unavoidable bands on the New York scene from the Nineties to 2010 — and his career has marked the imagination as that of a musician freed from conventions. An arranger with experience in the film industry — Robert Altman’s Kansas City, Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty — and also a versatile musical director, Steven Bernstein has worked for John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards as well as on numerous tribute-projects including the music of Leonard Cohen (I’m Your Man), Doc Pomus, Harold Arlen or Bill Withers (Still Bill). His presence alongside Levon Helm in Midnight Ramble (the highly under-estimated group led by the legendary Band drummer), his ties with John Zorn and the Tzadik label (he masterfully guided the Diaspora series which saw contributions from Sam Rivers), and also his closeness to many artists who regularly solicit his contributions — Aretha Franklin, Bootsy Collins, Lou Reed, Martin Medeski & Wood, Vernon Reid, Linda Ronstadt, Sting, Courtney Love, Lee « Scratch » Perry, Bill Frisell, Rufus Wainwright, Marianne Faithfull, Antony & The Johnsons, Elton John —, make this insatiable pioneer-researcher a musician open to the world and all of its various expressions.