Henri Herbert
Boogie Till I Die
HH Records

Jazzy Classical Boogie Woogie Americana?

Even by our eclectic standards this is a Leftfield release!
I’d not heard of Henri Herbert before; and was still Googling him (& the release date!) with this on in the background when I had a metaphorical Eureka! moment ….. oh my giddy aunt!
What a brilliant pianist this man is!
Even today I’m still not sure how to describe his playing or indeed his choice of music ….. it’s tentatively aimed at the Americana audience; but Hell’s Teeth there is so, so much more going on here ….. Jazzy Classical Boogie Woogie Americana?
There are only two tunes with vocals, which I will get to later; and Herbert certainly ‘mixes it up’ on the way; starting with his very own composition, Boogie Till I Die, where he channels Professor Longhair via Jerry Lee Lewis to create a spellbinding four minutes that absolutely fly by in the blink of an eye.
This is followed by a 100mph piano duet with the legendary Chuck Leavell; Sixth Avenue Express and again, I was left mesmerised by the quality of playing and their ability to hold my attention ….. over and over again, as I couldn’t stop myself pressing ‘repeat’ several times.
The first of Herbert’s vocal performances comes next when he smashes it out of the park with a Honky-Tonk version of Otis Spann’s Must Have Been The Devil ….. and as well as ‘that’ amazing skill set on the piano, this kid can ‘sing a song too’ …. a raspy and smoky style that bodes well for any releases in the future.
Part of me really wants to talk about every single track here; but that will spoil the surprises won’t it … and everything really is a special surprise.
Damn it! I will anyway.
Sweet Lorraine drifts along like a Summer Breeze and could easily have been the “something of my own” that Sam said to Rick in Casablanca; it’s that timeless late-night feel my generation heard about being played in Jazz clubs; but hardly ever witnessed.
I didn’t recognise the following tune; as it’s performed so slowly at the beginning, it could easily be something by Handel or Liszt …. then the lights flicker on and Herbert cranks the gears up… and …. of course it is …. it’s It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) …. but the Duke never performed it like this.
Henri seamlessly slips in his own Fast Boogie Woogie (and it is!) before delightfully pulling the tone done with a staggering version of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom; then it’s full gears ahead for something called Boogie Woogie Stomp (Amos Ammons?) then again; another one of his own when he combines Jazzy undertones with some fiery New Orleans piano on Guitar Boogie …. which could easily have been something taken from the Blue Note back catalogue.
The album closes with a beautifully toned instrumental version of Ray Charles’ Hard Times, which in my humble opinion should have been prefaced by Hymn to Freedom; as they are a perfect fit plus, the three Boogilicious tracks that surround Oscar’s opus, may benefit even more without the break in mood … and sequencing is ‘everything’ on an album…. doncha think?
That leaves one more ‘song’ and the second vocal performance here; I’m a fan; but certainly didn’t recognise Muddy Waters’ Long Distance Call; of which I own several versions; but the way Henri Herbert re-invents it, as a late night heartbreaker is very nearly mind-blowing and has become something of a ‘go-to’ for me this week; and is probably my Favourite Track by a gnat’s hair!
I have several piano dominated albums in my collection; mostly by Dr John, but a few Jazz and Blues ones too; but the only time I’ve felt like this when I first heard it was way back in 1978 when I bought the Boogie Woogie ’78 EP by a fledgling Jools Holland. I say ‘accidental’ as I had only just discovered Squeeze and didn’t have a clue as to what Boogie Woogie was …. bur soon learnt that night!

Released September 2022


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.