Spectacularly talented pianist Henry Butler fits right in with the elite of the great New Orleans piano tradition, which is suitably reflected on his new PiaNOLA Live (Basin Street), culled from 20 years of solo performances. He tackles the Crescent City standard "Basin Street Blues" and NOLA R&B nuggets like "Mother-In-Law" and "Something You Got." But Butler is far more eclectic than most piano professors, having played everything from bop to electrified blues-rock, and is nearly as eccentric (at least musically) as James Booker. So every piece is an amazing, idiosyncratic workout, combining dazzling ivory improvisations and the husky cries, growls, and whispers of Butler's gospel-drenched voice. His expansive rendition of Professor Longhair's iconic "Tipitina" is utterly unique and wonderful. The soaring version of Gov. Jimmy Davis' "You Are My Sunshine" shines with classical overtones. Billy Preston's funky "Will It Go Round In Circles" is delightfully off-kilter. Butler concludes with the richly evocative blues suite "North American Idiosyncracies," written by his late mentor, the great clarinetist and teacher Alvin Batiste. $22 at 7 p.m.; $15 at 9:30 p.m.
Sun., June 22, 2008
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