Release Date: June 11, 2020
Label: Brontosaurus Records
Acclaimed vocalist-composer and lyricist Lauren Henderson returns with her most personal gesture to date. A multilingual rumination on themes of love and longing, Musa explores existing connections — and creates new relationships — among Henderson’s mingling lineages.
Toward the beginning of the pandemic, the New York artist sought to record an album braiding together traditions that influence her sound. “I wanted my next record to blend jazz, flamenco and Afro-Latinx music” says Henderson, “kind of melding all that makes me me, culturally and musical identity-wise.”
Musa is Henderson's her eighth release as a leader and features eleven tracks of original compositions and vibrant interpretations of standard tunes, including “I Concentrate on You,” “Wild is the Wind” and Valerie Parks Brown’s, “Forget Me.” Layer by layer, the lattermost title — Musa’s first single release — reveals an undercurrent of intensity pervading Henderson’s expression. Through each satin-swaddled lyric, she intuits dynamic tension and release. Her unrelenting awareness serves every dimension of the music. “I love being a musician because we’re always learning and we’re always growing,” says Henderson, who assembled a deft and dextrous outfit to interpret Musa’s range of identity. “Some of these songs blend jazz, R&B and soul; others incorporate flamenco, so I had to ask, ‘Who would be perfect for this record?’”
“This is jazz mastery” — DownBeat Magazine
Core personnel includes Sullivan Fortner on piano, Eric Wheeler on bass and Joe Dyson on drums. When Henderson felt ready to share her music, she went straight to Fortner, her longtime collaborator who has played on all her leader releases since 2011. “Sullivan is the first person I usually go to to share my original music,” she says, “just to get feedback from someone I trust, someone I know will give their honest opinion of what they think about the music.” Following a socially distant duo rehearsal, Henderson set the record dates.
Throughout the recording, Henderson engages a complexity of both musical and cultural identities, allowing them to influence the direction of the music in a head-on and multidimensional way. The sound she sought for each track emerged as bold, textural and authentic. After laying down mixes at Flux Studios in Manhattan — under the direction of studio engineer Daniel Sanint — Henderson sent tracks to extended ensemble members, trumpet player-composer Marquis Hill; electric guitarist Nick Tannura; stage, screen and studio performer Daniel J. Watts; Madrid-based flamenco guitarist Paco Soto; and legendary flamenco percussionist Sabu Porrina. “Paco is an amazing flamenco guitarist,” says Henderson, who met the Spanish artist when she spent a semester abroad in Spain. The two developed a friendship and creative partnership via Instagram, “Like a lot of other millennials [laughs].”
“Somewhere between a comforting whisper and a cogent declaration” — The New York Times
“As a composer, I really want to honor honesty and integrity,” says Henderson. “As a vocalist, it’s my responsibility to deliver a story to the listener and share my interpretation of the story. I just try to be kind of simple with my compositions and let things breathe. It’s been such an honor — and a blessing — to work with the people I’ve been able to call because they add so much life and their own voice to the music.”
Wheeler casts vivid shadows of tension and tenderness on “La Marejada” as Soto’s guitar radiates across Henderson’s melodies and interludes. Full of grace and syncopation, “Luz” features signature interplay between Henderson and Fortner buoyed by Dyson’s nuanced and reflexive touch. “Wild is the Wind” reveals the impact of intimacy — contemplative, purposeful and engaging a conflux of time feels. The album’s sole English-lyric original “Leeward” presents a hymn to the enduring nature of love. Hill’s lustrous conversational melody and moments of self-talk call and response serve the mood’s surrender. Porrina joins the ensemble for the album’s title track, providing textural dimension and resonating authenticity.
Composing for her own sound has taken Henderson on a journey of self-discovery. She found her shy disposition could become the focal point of her music — the most intimate aspect of her expression. “I’m not a belter,” says Henderson. “It’s more nuanced. While intensity is a powerful tool that we can use in a beautiful way and in a positive way, I can be more private at times, and I think I bring some of that to the stage. I’m so grateful for people who take the time to listen. I’m saying more with less and people have to listen to be able to receive it.”
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."
SOUL & JAZZ & FUNK
"So back to where we started: little wonder that Lauren Henderson’s ‘Musa’ is all over jazz radio. It’s out now." Read this review here.
"This is her eighth release as a leader and her most personal gesture to date, featuring a mix of original compositions and vibrant interpretations of standards." Read The Week in Jazz here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Latin music has been having a positive influence on jazz for generations, and Henderson helps keep that time-honored tradition going on Musa." Read this entire review in the June 2021 issue of the New York City Jazz Record here.
The cool smolder of Lauren Henderson's vocal style can call a handful of references to mind — the visual language of film noir, say, or the image of a sleeping cat curled on a windowsill. A more direct antecedent, as you can hear in this track, might be the musical example of Shirley Horn, who recorded her version of "Forget Me" in 2003. Read this feature here.
MAKING A SCENE!
"This is beautiful, relaxing and get-close-to-your-significant-other music or private stay-up-late-at-night listening. Take your choice or try both. You’ll win either way. Read this review here.
MÁS JAZZ DIGITAL
Seguramente detrás de esta aceleración no tan solo está la creación y difusión de su pequeño sello discográfico Brontosaurus Records, sino también la labor de un gran equipo comercial encabezado por los productores: Michael Thurber y el nominado a los Grammy y ganador de un Emmy Mark Ruffin, productores de Alma Oscura y Ármame respectivamente, trabajos estos que claramente marcan el despegue en la carrera de Lauren Henderson, quien en este nuevo lanzamiento del 2021 ha sabido combinar el jazz cosmopolita y sofisticado de la “Gran Manzana” con la esencia del jazz latino de raíces y el “toque español” o Spanish Tinge de Juan Tizol. Para leer mas presione aquí.
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.