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Henry Butler: PiaNOLA Live

The final cut on this collection of live recordings, drawn from tapes salvaged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, finds New Orleans pianist Henry Butler performing “North American Idiosyncrasies.” A leisurely paced blues composed by Alvin Batiste, it’s a fitting coda to an album that derives so much of its charm, energy and personality from Butler’s own stylistic eccentricities.

Of course, the Crescent City has been home to numerous pianists who’ve stood out by virtue of their curiously animated technique, including Professor Longhair, who inspires Butler’s delightfully kinetic performance of “Tipitina” here. A thoroughly re-imagined interpretation that moves from solemn chords to percussive, knotty runs to Longhair-ish cross-rhythms (all before Butler sings the first verse), the rendering is punctuated by a sweeping improvisation laced with rippling single-note flurries and resounding left-hand chords.

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