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Bill Henderson: Beautiful Memory: Live at the Vic

How can a guy who has been heralded as the definitive hard-bop vocalist, whose wide-ranging résumé includes stellar work alongside the likes of Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson and Charlie Haden (that’s Henderson alternating tracks with Shirley Horn on Haden’s The Art of the Song from 1999), who fully deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as such contemporaries as Ernie Andrews, Oscar Brown Jr. and Johnny Hartman, remain so incredibly underappreciated?

So far off the radar is Bill Henderson that even ardent jazz-vocal fans are often surprised to discover he’s still around. Well, around and active he is-remarkably, at age 82, sounding every bit as robust as he did throughout his vibrant stint from 1958-61 as the sole jazz artist on the Vee-Jay label, and on his bestselling eponymous ’63 Verve album with Peterson’s trio-as demonstrated throughout this live date, captured at the Vic in Santa Monica in March 2007.

Fans of Henderson’s early-career sessions will recognize that the aptly titled Beautiful Memory represents a stroll down memory lane. Yet while the songs may be largely the same (augmented by such eclectic additions as B.B. King’s “Never Make Your Move” and Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”), the arrangements are fresh and innovative and Henderson’s reinterpretations are estimably inventive. There may be frost in his beard, but there remains a blazing fire in his belly and an irresistibly energetic hipsterism that rivals fellow octogenarian Jon Hendricks.

Originally Published