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This is the new landing page for all KCJO program notes going forward. Now you will be able to see past program notes and read up on the current show that you’re attending!

Conversations with Lisa Henry

Conversations with Lisa Henry eblast_website.png

“Conversation” is a word that really describes what jazz music is all about. Each of the songs for our concerts this weekend at the Folly Theater are steeped in the idea of communicating - communicating a feeling, communicating a story, communicating a perspective. Lisa Henry exemplifies this, and at her heart is a masterful weaver of stories imbued with feelings and reflections of a life lived (and still living!). 


As is our custom, KCJO will perform a few songs as a big band before she takes the stage, and we will be pulling a selection or two out of the following:


The Night Has A Thousand Eyes is a classic jazz standard, most notably recorded by John Coltrane. Here, we see the different of the sections of the band play with and against each other, with dovetailing solos by trumpet and trombone. One Way is from the fabulous Carla Bley, whom we lost this past year. On the cutting edge of the avant-garde movement in jazz, she was also a deft big band arranger, and this smooth Bossa Nova gives way to some serious gospel tinges. Cherokee is another long-tenured jazz standard that has been a de facto tour de force for the greatest artists in the music. Tonight we’ll see the incredible saxophone section open things up, along with trumpet virtuoso Trent Austin, and lead alto David Chael soloing, before the “big finish.” A couple tunes by Duke Ellington, Blues to Be There and Idiom ‘59 are also present, showcasing Duke’s incredible talent at creating sonic landscapes using the form and timbre of the blues. 


As Lisa joins KCJO for her sets - I won’t give away the stories she will tell through them, but I’ll talk a bit about the music. You’ll notice a pair of jazz standards: Body and Soul and In A Mellow Tone, two songs that every jazz musician learns and plays a thousand times over their careers. They are so effortlessly perfect, their chord structure and malleability to become vehicles for great artists like Lisa. You’ll also see a pair of songs done by Nina Simone in I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free and the immortal Feeling Good. Originally recorded as an upbeat rock/gospel vibe, I Wish I Knew… is given a gospel swing treatment here, a la Count Basie’s Hay Burner and Nina’s own piano playing. Feeling Good you have heard before, but is just such a great tune and Lisa makes it her own. 


You’ll also hear a composition by the wonderful Pamela Baskin Watson, such a wonderful songwriter, educator, and vocalist: Seekers Of The Sun. Originally recorded by her and her husband Bobby Watson on his album “Check Cashing Day,” and done, powerfully, here. One of Lisa’s mentors and friends, the great Dianne Reeves, is another wonderful songwriter, performer, and educator. And just with voice and percussion, we will perform her song Endangered Species. 


“The Color Purple” was such a great film (two of them, now!) and work of literary art, and the former gave us a stunningly simple but deep blues tune by the great Quincy Jones: Miss Celie’s Blues. Charles and Lisa have played this tune a number of times together, and their connection here is obvious and joyous. Bringing the evening to a close will be a song written by another great: Sting. His song Fragile has always been a favorite from his discography, but tonight we are incorporating a phenomenal rendition he called upon (my absolute favorite musician of all time) Stevie Wonder to sing. With those luminaries who could cast a long shadow on any other artist, Lisa instead uses the perspectives learned from their interpretation and creates something tonight that is incredibly personal and every bit as inspirational and emotional. 


Thank you so much for joining us! This concert will be such a great adventure through the lens of a truly wonderful human being and artist: Lisa Henry. 

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