The human voice is so powerful, says Cory Henry. When Im singing, its like this extra way of
connecting and communicating with people beyond what I can do just playing the organ. Im able to convey these messages
that are really important and meaningful to me through my words. Being front and center like this every night, its a
challenge, but Im up for it.
On his debut album with The Funk Apostles, Chapter 1: The Art of Love, organ virtuoso Cory Henry demonstrates
thats he more than up more for the challenge, moving from sideman to frontman with seemingly effortless grace and cool.
Praised by AllMusic as one of the finest Hammond B-3 organ players of his generation, Henry also proves himself
to be a remarkable singer and songwriter here, one of extraordinary depth and vision. He and the band whip up an intoxicating
blend of blues, soul, R&B, Afrobeat, gospel, and jazz on the record, blurring genres and upending expectations at every turn.
Simultaneously futuristic and retro, experimental and classic, its the sound of one of modern musics most inventive
minds coming fully into his own as a bandleader and storyteller.
A Brooklyn native, Henry may be best known for his role in Snarky Puppy, the instrumental jazz-pop orchestra hailed by Rolling
Stone as one of the more versatile groups on the planet right now. Hes won a pair of GRAMMY Awards for his
work with the band since 2012, but Henrys deft keyboard skills have been blowing minds around the world for more than
two decades now.
At six, he made his debut at Harlems legendary Apollo Theater, and at nineteen, he joined the touring band of jazz icon
Kenny Garrett. Since then, hes toured or recorded with everyone from Bruce Springsteen and The Roots to P. Diddy and
Yolanda Adams in addition to cracking the Top 10 on Billboards Jazz charts with a pair of solo albums. NPR called him
a master and said his musical charisma is a match for a nearly 400 pound organ, while Keyboard Magazine
dubbed his playing soulful, church-y, playful, restrained, and virtuosic, and The Boston Globe raved that if
anyones going to preach the gospel of the Hammond organ, it should be Cory Henry. The gospel, in fact, is where
it all began for Henry.
He grew up performing and singing in church (a recent documentary titled Gotcha Now features incredible footage
of him tearing up the organ there at the age of four), but he refrained from sharing his voice with the world outside those
holy halls for many years. I just didnt think my voice was good enough, he confesses. I didnt
think anyone else would want to hear it. But now that Ive overcome my fear of singing, Ive gotten comfortable
with my voice, and its become just like another instrument for me. Henrys vocals on the album are smooth
and breathy, with an intimate delivery thats alternately understated and ecstatic. While his keyboard playing often
draws comparisons to Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock, Henrys singing reveals a whole different side of his musical
personality, one that synthesizes everything from Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye to Stevie Wonder and Prince.
Every influence that I could think of growing up is in this record, reflects Henry. Im trying to break
the barriers. The word funk is in our name, but I want people to know that this band is bigger musically than any one genre.
Henry pieced together The Funk Apostles lineup out of players he met on the road over the years, and each member of
the band is an all-star in their own right. Guitarist Adam Agati, who co-wrote the albums lyrics with Henry, has worked
with everyone from Booker T. Jones to Ludacris, while bassist Sharay Reed has performed with Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin,
Chakha Khan, and more. Henry met drummer TaRon Lockett while he was playing with Snarky Puppy, but hes performed with
some of the biggest names in R&B including Erykah Badu and Montell Jordan, and keyboardist Nick Semrads credits include
Miss Lauryn Hill, Bilal, and Gabriel Garzon-Montano.
Recorded in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Chapter 1: The Art Of Love was tracked live to tape in an effort both to capture
the inimitable energy of the bands live shows and to channel the warm analog vibes of the 1970s. While Henry may
be renowned for his gifts as an improviser, the album serves as a showcase for his skills as a songwriter and producer, rich
with intricate arrangements and memorable hooks. Thats not to say its without spontaneity, though. The band worked
with minimal rehearsal (Henry estimates theyve had three in the two years since the band started playing together),
and several tracks are actually first-take recordings. The driving, funky In The Water, combines a relentlessly
pulse-pounding rhythm section groove with swirling synthesizer underneath Henrys insistent, charismatic vocals. Like
much of the album, the song is an examination of love: what it means, what it takes, what makes it last. On lead single Trade
It All, he offers up a vulnerable, honest account of the sacrifices hed make for a lover, while the sensual and
smooth Just A Word sets a sultry mood for romance, and the fluid, elegant Our Affairs finds him asking,
Babe tell me why / You put me through Hell when Heavens where true love resides?
As a writer, Henry is clearly interested in love beyond just the romantic sense of the word, though, often zooming out to
take a big picture look at a world that seems to be sorely lacking in it. Find A Way is an anthem to making life
better through compassion and empathy, frequent show-closer Give Me A Sign is a blues and gospel-tinged love letter
to music itself, and the punchy Takes All Time is Henrys true-life account of his journey to manhood, his
testimony to love and not rushing to find it. The album ends on a more political note with Free,
a gritty tune inspired by current events that features Henrys most impassioned vocal performance yet as he promises,
we gonna fight / live or die for our rights / everywhere. I want to make music that really means something,
he explains. I think of the 60s and 70s as this golden era of music, and if you look at some of the top
artists then like Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, they were singing about what was happening around them in this creative
way that made people want to act. They used music as a tool to reach the world and bring about change to help make it a better
place. I want to do that, too. Its an ambitious goal, to be sure, but if theres one thing this album proves,
its that Cory Henry is up for the challenge.