In case you’ve somehow missed him, Henry Butler is perhaps today’s leading practitioner of classic New Orleans piano, that idiosyncratic blend of jazz, blues, boogie-woogie, Caribbean, R&B and on and on (in fact, Butler learned from New Orleans legend Professor Longhair). In recent years, when not working with the camp he developed for young musicians who were, like him, born blind, or working on his photography (featured in a recent HBO documentary on blind photographers), Butler takes his show on the road, performing much of the time lately with vocalist Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9. Earlier this year, the group released Viper’s Drag, a celebration of the mid-century jazz and R&B at the heart of Butler’s musical vision (and the first release on the newly relaunched Impulse! Records).
In the wake of that release, Butler and company played the 20th annual BAM R&B Festival at Metrotech, in downtown Brooklyn. The festival consisted of free outdoor performances every Thursday for much of the summer. In addition to Butler, performers included Darlene Love, the Ohio Players and Bobby Rush. For Elmore’s photos of Henry Butler – Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9 at the BAM R&B Festival, see below.
All photos by Arnold Goodman