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Lauren Henderson's stories of love and loss

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    Posted: 15 Nov 2018 at 7:57pm

Vocalist, composer, and arranger LAUREN HENDERSON is having an exceptionally busy year. Besides a full touring schedule, which includes performances in several European countries, she's releasing two CDs in 2018. Ármame was released in March and received stellar reviews for both her vocal performance and her original compositions. RIPTIDE, her second recording project of the year, is an EP comprising six of her original tunes that explore a complex and tumultuous relationship.
RIPTIDE is Henderson's fourth CD. Each of her projects stands as a chronicle of her growth as an artist. She began making a reputation for herself with her first recording in 2011, when she was still in her early twenties. The eponymously titled Lauren Henderson featured mostly jazz standards. She began including her own writing on La Madrugada, her 2015 release. Midwest Record said of the CD, "She has this special knack for being cutting edge and retro at the same time. An interesting feat when it can be pulled off as skillfully as Henderson does. Sophisticated listening for sophisticated ears."
Henderson's music is strongly inflected with jazz, Latin, soul, and fusion elements, and it also reflects her multicultural background. Her mother is the daughter of immigrants from Panama and Montserrat, and her father is African-American with roots in the Caribbean. Although her parents aren't professional musicians (her father was a dean at MIT and her mother a vice president at Fidelity Investments), Henderson credits them with her love of music. "I heard jazz when I was still in the womb. I think my father put speakers up to my mother's belly," quips Henderson. "My father is pretty much a jazz historian, and I probably got 99% of my early music education from him." She began studying piano at the age of seven, and although she only plays piano these days when she's composing or rehearsing a song, her technical knowledge of music clearly informs her singing.
Henderson has been shuttling back and forth between New York City and Miami for her performances, and to Providence, R.I., where she's attending Wheaton College to earn an MBA degree. Besides being a musician, she's also a businesswoman. She began her own record label, called Brontosaurus Records, which she would like to grow into a small, boutique company that will maximize profits for the artists.
The musical milieus in New York and Miami are quite different and offer Henderson the opportunity to focus on the full range of her musical interests. Miami has a large Cuban population, and Henderson sings a lot of Latin music when she performs there, but she feels the Miami audiences are also more amenable to R&B elements. The New York jazz scene is more attuned to straightahead jazz, though Henderson enjoys fusing all the different styles wherever she performs.
Henderson engaged some up-and-coming jazz stars from both New York and Miami to appear on RIPTIDE. Based in New York, CHRIS PATTERSHALL, who plays piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and synthesizer on this disc, was recently named by Wynton Marsalis as one of the top five jazz musicians under 30 to watch. He's also the recipient of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer's Award. JOE SAYLOR is another New York mainstay. He plays percussion in Jon Batiste's Stay Human, the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Bass player ERIC ENGLAND is a versatile, first-call musician in the Miami area. He's performed with some of the top names in the jazz and pop worlds, including Jon Secada, Lil Wayne, and Rihanna. Henderson says, "When we play, it's almost like a jam session. Of course, I lay down the groundwork and give the musicians the charts, but I know how talented they are, and I trust their instincts. I haven't been disappointed yet."
Henderson's voice is sultry and soulful. Whether she's singing in English or Spanish, she has a sure sense of swing that doesn't rely on melisma or pyrotechnics. Her music aims for your heart rather than your head.
She opens the CD with "Ámame," which means "love me" in Spanish. The bouncy, Latin-tinged song is about the first blush of love. "Riptide," the title tune, has a strong, rhythmic feel. The song explores the contradictions you start to experience in a relationship and the feeling of being pulled down by forces out of your control. In "Separate," Henderson writes about the moment you realize the relationship has failed and it's time to break up. "Bahito" has a mysterious, almost trippy feel. The song reflects on the empty, lost feelings you have as you move through your days after the break up. "Ennui"sets in when you know the relationship is never going to work. Henderson ends the CD with a more upbeat feel. "Slow Control" involves getting back control of your life and emotions and the feeling of letting go.
Lauren Henderson is a rising jazz star. She's talented, smart, and driven to make interesting, multicultural, multi-textural music. She's been growing her audiences in jazz clubs and up and down the East Coast and around Europe, and she'll soon be breaking into the African music market with a tour in South Africa scheduled for early 2019.
RIPTIDE is available in stores and online everywhere.

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