CoM&L Episode 6 - Nicole Henry

Pennsylvania native Nicole Henry spent her early years studying ballet, practicing cello, and singing in church and elsewhere. In an interview with The Morning Call, Henry cites her mother as her motivator: “She encouraged us to express ourselves artistically, she encouraged us to play instruments in school. So I grew up singing in the choir at school, in the choir at church ….” Henry’s recording career began in the late 1990s and included work with the disco-inflected Westbrook Project. Jazz, she said in the same interview, entered the picture only after she graduated from the University of Miami in 2002. Her work that year, however, led the Miami New Times to honor her as “Best Solo Musician.”

Further honors followed quickly. The Nearness of You, Henry’s debut album, caught the ears of listeners in Japan and netted her laurels there as “Best New Jazz Artist of 2004.” Her follow-up, Teach Me Tonight, won “Best Vocal Jazz Album of 2005” from HMV Japan. By 2008, she was making an impression at home with her album The Very Thought of You, which reached single digits on the Billboard jazz chart.

In late 2013 Henry performed for a month of Sundays at New York’s storied Blue Note jazz club. During that residency she sang, among other things, a range of 1970s tunes—including Bill Withers’ classic “Use Me” and James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”—that she’d recorded for her sixth album, So Good, So Right. With her torrid vocals, affinity for the dance decade (she also sang dance songs during her college years), and her international appeal, Henry is proving to be a different kind of diva. And an ever welcome one.