Wearing a dazzling skirt, Nicole Henry stepped out on stage and commanded the audience with flair. The night was filled with “music about going places,” Henry explained, about love and freedom in “a time of social and civic movement, upwards”—and this was exactly the vibe she emitted to the audience.
The set list included “On The Street Where You Live,” “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” and “Baby, Here I Am,” all showcasing Henry’s brilliant, powerhouse vocals. More interestingly, the arrangements throughout the night, notably “Fly Me To The Moon,” were in free time, rhythmically and vocally daring—simmering into the essence of free jazz.
Henry’s vocals, although sounding a tiny bit tired, after having already performed three sold-out shows at Dizzy’s, powered through the last set with vitality. Her sassy and sexy attitude, which elicited a, “sing it, sister!” from the audience, is best described as that of a traditional gospel singer breaking out from inside a soulful, cool jazz vocalist.
Standing out in the set list was her rendition of “First Time on a Ferris Wheel,” singing of heartbreak with a golden tinge, impressing the night’s tough audience. The ensemble was very slick and shone through in “Water In March,” especially the trumpeter’s melismatic humming. Henry’s careful phrasing and gentle note placement brought a warm smile to my face.
The set ended as the audience relaxed, too soon, with “Feeling Good” finally breaking the reserved crowd, but rewarded Henry with a standing ovation which led to an encore. The setlist could be revamped to ease the audience in a bit sooner, but nevertheless, a very strong performance by Henry.
Henry revealed that she has been working with Nile Rodgers and is planning on a spring release, with hopes of being signed to Blue Note. It would be a mistake for them not to take on this fabulous and talented artist, and I hope to see her perform new material very soon.