Answer: They are a relatively new outfit, busting out in 2018 with a debut album. But Cory Henry, organ wunderkind, has been blowing minds (and winning Grammy awards) for most of his 32 years.
At age three, he was already playing in his family’s church, Brooklyn’s Unity Temple, as this irresistible video attests.
At six, he made his debut at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, and at nineteen, he joined the touring band of jazz icon Kenny Garrett. Since then, he’s 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 Billboard’s 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 anyone’s going to preach the gospel of the Hammond organ, it should be Cory Henry.”
Henry netted his two Grammy awards as a member of Snarky Puppy, the instrumental jazz-pop orchestra hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the more versatile groups on the planet right now.” Henry’s organ solo (starting at 10:40) on this live version of Snarky’s Lingus in 2014 made jaws drop across the music world. Many internet hours were spent attempting analyze what Henry was up to, including the second video by a British fan.
Little did the public know, but Henry could also sing. And while he can produce stratospheric keyboard jazz that often comparisons to Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock, Henry’s 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.
“The human voice is so powerful,” says Henry in a biography on his website. “When I’m singing, it’s like this extra way of connecting and communicating with people beyond what I can do just playing the organ. I’m able to convey these messages that are really important and meaningful to me through my words. Being front and center like this every night, it’s a challenge, but I’m up for it.”
Enjoy these examples of Henry in his latest artistic incarnation as lead singer, songwriter and Hammond B-3 player for the Funk Apostles, as he and the band whip up an intoxicating blend of blues, soul, R&B, Afrobeat, gospel and jazz:
As a songwriter, Henry comes down strongly on the side of songs that promote the power of love and courage in challenging times. “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.”