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New album from Lauren Henderson

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    Posted: 02 Jul 2019 at 8:37pm
"Henderson sings somewhere between a comforting whisper and a cogent declaration" - The New York Times

LAUREN HENDERSON is a prolific vocalist, composer, and arranger, as well as a budding entrepreneur. ALMA OSCURA is Henderson's sixth CD since her self-titled, debut release in 2011. Her second album, A La Madrugada, came out in 2015. She released two critically acclaimed projects in 2018, the EP Riptide as well as the full album, Ármame,produced by Mark Ruffin, the journalist, radio host, and program director for jazz at SiriusXM. Ruffin became a fan of Henderson's after playing her music on SiriusXM. "I love her tone, her heritage, the quality of her voice," says Ruffin. "She's so talented, and one of the smartest singers I've ever worked with when it comes to the business of music. Also, there are very few folks singing in Spanish the way she swings it. I thought that was something that could not only expand her audience, but also expand jazz." Ármame, which featured Terri Lyne Carrington, made it to the Top 40 of the JazzWeek chart for six consecutive weeks and earned a place in the Top 100 of the chart's Year End round-up for 2018. Henderson's original music was also featured in the 2016 psychological thriller, "The Drowning," starring Julia Stiles.
Henderson's music is strongly inflected with jazz, Latin, soul, and fusion elements, and ALMA OSCURA, like all her previous work, reflects Henderson's multi-cultural 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. "My father is pretty much a jazz historian, and I probably got 99% of my early music education from him," says Henderson.
Henderson has had a busy few years. Based in New York City, she's been performing in major venues around town, like The Blue Note and Joe's Pub, as well as shuttling back and forth to Miami, where her Latin sounds are particularly popular with the area's large Cuban population. She has also performed in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia, Mexico and South Africa, and will be returning to Europe for her fifth European tour with performances planned in Germany, France, Spain, and The Czech Republic.
Henderson has also been busy continuing her education and working toward a couple of college degrees. She received degrees in both Music and Hispanic Studies at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, and she studied the traditional music of the Yucatán at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla while she was living in Puebla, México. She also studied flamenco and jazz at La Universidad de Córdoba in Córdoba, Spain.
Henderson also started her own record label called Brontosaurus Records and received an Executive Master of Business Administration from Brown University in 2019 to support her entrepreneurial endeavors. So far, besides her own CDs, Henderson has added Magela Herrera to the Brontosaurus Records roster. Herrera is a young flautist, singer and composer who recently released a critically acclaimed debut CD.
ALMA OSCURA means "dark soul" in English. According to Henderson, "The project is an exploration of culture, the poisons of social norms, race relations, and the complexities navigated through society as we encounter love and death." Sung in both English and Spanish, these compositions paint stories reflecting journeys imposed through the African diaspora and filtered through Henderson's multi-cultural heritage and American upbringing. 
ALMA OSCURA was produced by MICHAEL THURBER, the theater composer and lyricist who also plays bass with Jon Batiste and Stay Human for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Thurber plays bass on this project and brought on board some of the top players in the New York area, including SULLIVAN FORTNER and DAMIAN SIM on piano, ALLAN MEDNARD and JOE SAYLOR on drums, MOSES PATROU on percussion, GABE SCHNEIDER on guitar, MARK DOVER on clarinet, EMI FERGUSON on flute, JON LAMPLEYon trumpet, ROSE HASHIMOTO on viola, TARA HANISH on cello, TESSA LARK on violin (soloist), LAVINIA PAVLISH and BRENDAN SPELTZ on violins, CHARLES OVERTON on harp, and with LEO SIDRAN (son of Ben Sidran) providing guest vocals.
Henderson opens the CD with "From the Inside Out," by Leo Sidran and Alex Cuba. Sidran joins Henderson in a duet on this sultry tune, with lyrics in Spanish and English, about the intimate connection between lovers. "Something Bigger" was written for Henderson by Michael Thurber, who Henderson considers one of her closest friends.  "Alma Oscura," the title track, was written by Henderson and Thurber and is sung in Spanish. The lyrics are almost a soliloquy about someone talking to her own dark soul, trying to find her lost heart. "El Arbol," which means "the tree" in English, was written by Henderson about an interracial couple who are lynched because of their love. "Ven Meurte," which means "come death," was written by Thurber as part of the score for a production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. "Where Are You Now" is a haunting ballad by Thurber that questions the actions of a man who has made a bad decision that's now left him all alone. Henderson wrote "Protocol" about a love affair that's beginning to crumble, and "Dream," another original by Henderson, is about a great love that has run out of time. Henderson ends the song and the CD with the touching lyrics "Dream sweet my love / For you'll always be mine / And I'm forever yours / But a dream is our only time."
Henderson's voice has a soft, smoky quality that seems to float above the music, yet conveys great emotional depth and a bittersweet longing. The tunes on ALMA OSCURA are painted with a somber hue but are never maudlin. Rather, the entire vibe of the album creates the impression of a person engaged in an inner monologue, looking for the answers to some of life's most important questions.
ALMA OSCURA will be available in stores and online everywhere on June 28, 2019.
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