Release Date: November 13, 2020
Label: Brontosaurus Records
Critically acclaimed vocalist, arranger, and musical impresario Lauren Henderson ushers in the holiday season with her newest recording Classic Christmas. This four-track EP finds the “vibrant star singer” (Downbeat Magazine) updating and reimagining a collection of time-tested holiday gems in the company of a top flight rhythm section: pianists Issac Wilson and Sullivan Fortner, bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Allan Mednard.
The songs on Classic Christmas are personal favorites of the singer that have been recontextualized to fit the modern climate. The project opens with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic “My Favorite Things”, fit with a modern lyrical update that speaks to inclusivity, intersectionality and representation. As a black woman, and a member of the Afro-LatinX community, Henderson uses her art to share her experiences, and address concerning issues. “On “My Favorite Things”, I saw an opportunity to reflect my culture and the social climate in the United States by modifying the lyrics,” she said. This approach is also applied to the third track - a haunting rendition of “Once In Royal David’s City” that has been altered to highlight the strength of women and promote gender empowerment. Nestled between those is “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, which showcases the stunning interplay of the ensemble, and closing out the set is a stirring duet with oft-musical partner Sullivan Fortner on “What A Wonderful World”, a song Henderson hopes “will touch people's souls, especially as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”
When recording Classic Christmas, Henderson ruminated on a quote by Nina Simone: "It is the responsibility of an artist to reflect the times (in which he lives)." “This year, the holiday season and Christmas may seem different to some people. Many people have lost loved ones, are in difficult financial situations, or feel lost and alone. Many people continue to fight against oppressive administrations and fight for social justice, fair treatment, and for their voices and stories to be heard,” Henderson reflects. “There are beautiful people who need love and support. I wanted these songs to be honest and full of hope.”
Classic Christmas comes on the heels of The Songbook Session, Henderson’s new chart-topping full-length album, released this past April. A collection of jazz and Latin jazz standards, this self-produced record paints a story that reflects Henderson’s vast cultural influences as she sings in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The release peaked at number 5 on the JazzWeek radio chart and received critical praise from the likes of Jazziz Magazine, (“[The Songbook Session] is designed to place Henderson in the lineage of classic jazz vocalists”), Downbeat Magazine (“jazz mastery”) and Broadway World (“a singer possessing of one of the warmest, most inviting vocal instruments”), among others.
The Songbook Session
Release Date: April 24, 2020
Label: Brontosaurus Records
Lauren Henderson's sixth musical alliance with pianist Sullivan Fortner is The Songbook Session. A collection of jazz and Latin jazz standards, this self-produced record paints a story that reflects Henderson’s vast cultural influences - on The Songbook Session, Henderson uncovers the layers of her diverse background in English, Spanish and Portuguese. With the release of this nine-track collection, Henderson and Fortner - a revered duo with over a decade of musical collaboration - continue to mature and develop their collective and respective voices with bassist Eric Wheeler, long time collaborator of Henderson's and Allan Mednard, an expressive and inventive drummer and percussionist. Each of the reimagined arrangements of these classic gems - including “Day By Day”, “Sabor A Mi”, “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Besame Mucho” - are courtesy of Henderson and Fortner.
The Songbook Session begins with a bright-tempoed exploration of the classic “Beautiful Love”. Stunning improvisation by celebrated bassist Eric Wheeler and pianist Sullivan Fortner gives way to Henderson’s warm, expressive voice. Moving onward to the second track, we get to the heart of this inspired release with a stellar entrancing arrangement of “Besame Mucho” beginning with a vocal and drum duo. Henderson flows from singing in English to Spanish and Portuguese with a remarkable ease, drawing from this array of cultural influences to create a unified, impassioned sound. Henderson’s expressive delivery of this Consuelo Velázquez classic is rivaled only by the incredible interplay of the ensemble as a whole.
Lending her sultry voice to the songbook classic “People Will Say We’re in Love”, this jubilant arrangement reflects Henderson’s fascination with the songbook classics of yesteryear, and demonstrates her aptitude at interpreting such landmark compositions. Henderson draws audiences in the thoughtful musings of her rendition of the classic jazz standard “Tenderly”. The vocalist noted “I selected “Tenderly” because I grew up listening to Billie Holiday’s rendition with my father. I’ve always tried to incorporate my cultures into my music. I was inspired to write my own lyrics in Spanish to tie it together.” The ensemble shines on the album’s concluding track, “While We’re Young”. Fortner’s beautiful melodic invention adorns the velvety vocal stylings of Henderson and expertly builds the dynamic level of the ensemble.
In her endearing live and recorded performances, Henderson's Panamanian, Montserratian, and vast Caribbean roots interplay with her North American upbringing - her eclectic vocal influences spread across genres producing a distinct yet versatile sound. Jazz, Latin jazz, flamenco, folk and classical roots aid in an exploration of culture, society, race relations and the various complexities of life. Recently featured in the Financial Times, breaking the Jazz Charts - Top 25, and the Year End Jazz Week Top 100 for 2018 and 2019, Lauren's music resonates with listeners in the US and abroad. In reviewing her recent performance at the Blue Note, The New York Times' described her voice as "somewhere between a comforting whisper and a cogent declaration".
Henderson met Sullivan Fortner weeks after graduating with her Bachelor of Arts and moving to New York. Their long friendship has aided in their professional relationship and ease of musical expression. With hundreds of performance experiences together, and six released recordings including The Songbook Session, Henderson and Fortner have a strong bond that enables them to write, arrange, produce and perform in an impactful way. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Sullivan on stage and in the studio for almost a decade,” says Henderson, adding, “his wisdom and guidance has always been essential to my growth and creative freedom. Besides being someone who I respect and admire musically, he has continued to be one of my best friends and I consider him family."
for Classic Christmas
WULF'S MUSIC + BLOG
This stylish and deeply touching EP was recorded with pianists Issac Wilson and Sullivan Fortner, bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Allan Mednard and the included 4 songs is all you need to get into the festive spirit. Read this article here.
"Lauren Henderson is blessed with a rich, appealing voice, which she uses with discipline and precision when emotionally investing herself in the music and lyrics of the four songs on this holiday EP, three of which are quartet tunes." Read this review here.
for The Songbook Session
"The sparer context enhances Henderson’s soft power, supporting her voice rather than surrounding it. It’s an approach especially well-suited to The Songbook Session’s repertoire of Great American standards, clearly designed to place Henderson in the lineage of classic jazz vocalists." Read this article here.
"She has a quavering vibrato that can become a small distraction on ballads, but that doesn’t pose a problem here —in no small part because her bond with the trio feels so easy and sure." Read this article here.
"There are some voices that are immediately welcoming and welcome. Such is the case with Lauren Henderson...This album clocks in at a little over 42 minutes, and its only shortcoming is that you will wish that it was longer."
"The Songbook Session becomes a trilingual triumph with a bossa nova favorite from the Jobim songbook: a meditation on the song known in English as "Meditation" in its Portuguese guise. Like everything else on this atmospheric delicate delicacy, it sits and sways very much in a comfort zone well worth the visit." Read the full review here.
"Lauren Henderson is a singer possessing of one of the warmest, most inviting vocal instruments one could be lucky enough to spend 43 minutes listening to,"Read the full review here.
"Moving as one fluid unit on The Songbook Session, Henderson and company honor their roots, and the roots of the music they love, without hubris. They enhance these songs only enough to reiterate the repertoire’s ongoing durability and significance in a modern context. This is jazz mastery." Read the full feature here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS'S BLOG
"This is generally the telltale sign of a super successful, vocal powerhouse."Read the full review here.
WULF'S MUSIC + BLOG
"The groups improvisations, as an ensemble or individual, are faultless and are enhancing each composition. A very promising debut album from a band to watch out for!!!!" Read the full review here.
TRAVIS RODGERS JR
THE JAZZ OWL
The Songbook Session is Lauren’s third full-length album and it is her best to date. She takes standards from the 30s and 40s and breathes sweet life into them all over again, almost as if we had never heard them before. When an artist can make you forget everything that has gone before, it is something amazing. Such is this album. Read the full review here.
MAKING A SCENE
"Henderson is unique among jazz artists for multiple reasons. Her Panamanian, Montserratian, and vast Caribbean roots interplay with her North American upbringing – her eclectic vocal influences spread across genres producing a distinct yet versatile sound." Read the full review here.
"With a straight up sounding combo right in step, this is an enjoyable, out of the ordinary set that respects jazzbo ears looking for the real deal." Read the full review here.