The sheer breadth of Ashley Henry's vision is jaw-dropping.
The London composer draws from the deep well of jazz, but he also reaches out to neo-soul, hip-hop culture, and more.
New album 'Beautiful Vinyl Hunter' (Clash review HERE) brings these threads into one place, a dazzling exposition from one of the most forward-thinking minds in UK jazz right now.
Out now, it's a superb achievement, but at its core lies some exquisite instrumentation, not least from pianist and band leader Ashley Henry himself.
Clash caught up with this stellar musician to dig into his piano roots...
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Ahmad Jamal - 'What’s New' (Live at Pershing Lounge)
Probably one of my favourite trio records ever! It just shows how ahead of his time Ahmad Jamal was… You wouldn’t think this was recorded in 1958, especially with the hip-hop feel from 1:40!
After listening to this record you understand why so many musicians sampled him because everything he plays just feels so good! He plays from the heart and doesn’t waste a single note whilst making the piano sing with his unique feel and phrasing.
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Herbie Hancock - 'I Thought It Was You'
I love the way Herbie has always managed to stay relevant throughout the years and reinvent himself. This track for me shows many different sides of Herbie and not just his ability as an improvising jazz musician but the musical maturity, songwriting and production skills.
'Sunlight' is also my favourite Fender Rhodes album! When I started to get into playing Rhodes properly, all of Herbie’s 70’s records were on repeat!
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Thelonious Monk - 'Bye Ya' (Trio Version)
For me, Thelonious Monk has so much attitude and swagger to him- from the way he plays right down to the way he dresses! I’ve always admired that about him as well as him being one of my favourite composers.
This track from his early trio work is a perfect example of how catchy Monk’s melodies are in his tunes, and how free and full of life his improvising is alongside his rhythm section.
Stylistically his playing was very ahead of his time, but also very funky. A huge influence to me as both a composer and an artist.
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John Coltrane - 'Soul Eyes' (McCoy Tyner on piano)
Hearing John Coltrane’s Quartet for the first time completely changed the game for me. The musicianship between Elvin, McCoy, Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison is next level, unlike anything I heard before. Especially their live records where they really stretch out!
I chose this particular track because I love the way that McCoy Tyner accompanies Coltrane as well as being an innovative improviser with his own harmonic concept that is still used by a lot of jazz artists/musicians today.
Listening to McCoy on all of these records definitely inspired me to have that deep connection to my instrument.
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Miles Davis - 'Freddie Freeloader' (Wynton Kelly on piano)
Wynton Kelly was one of the first piano players I really started to study. He’s on so many of my favourite records from the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins…
Wynton is from the Caribbean like a lot of other great American Jazz musicians (Sonny Rollins, Roy Haynes, Eric Dolphy etc.), which probably explains why his playing resonated with me and inspired me so much because coming from the islands definitely gives you a deep understanding of rhythm. And I feel Miles Davis understood that too which is probably why he got Wynton to play on just this one track on the whole of the 'Kind Of Blue' record.
His deep rooting in the blues definitely gave him that lyrical quality to his playing that I always wanted. Miles once said “You can strike a match on Wynton Kelly’s groove!”… And this track definitely reflects that!
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'Beautiful Vinyl Hunter' is out now. Catch Ashley Henry at London's EartH on November 19th.
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