Bill McHenry. John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com hide caption

toggle caption
John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Bill McHenry.

John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Live At The Village Vanguard

Bill McHenry QuintetWBGO

Bill McHenry Quintet in Concert at the Village Vanguard - 06/10/2009

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105122558/105258468" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Bill McHenry Quintet in Concert at the Village Vanguard - 06/10/2009

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105122558/105259261" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Everything about Bill McHenry's musical profile would seem to indicate that he's merely a generic player. He's a tenor saxophonist who arrived in New York in the early-'90s wave of young talent, released a few records on small independent labels and chose not to hide his enthusiasm for melodies and chord changes. But those in the know recognize McHenry as one of the most distinct voices of his generation — one who possesses the rare ability to distill abstruse modern ideas into gorgeous, palpably warm music. That voice was on display with his newest band, a quintet featuring a likeminded cohort in drummer Paul Motian, in a live performance from the Village Vanguard.

McHenry called a set of intriguing originals, plus a couple of standard ballads chosen with care. On his compositions, twisting horn themes often in unison motion gave way to solos that drifted in and out of apparent form; the slow tunes were clearly picked with a view toward torch-song beauty. And when he stepped to the fore, he wowed with his command of subtle details in shading and shaping even the most technical of phrases.

Joining McHenry on the front line were poised trumpeter Duane Eubanks and passionate alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo, who both took solos with forays into extended technique. Bassist Ben Street both walked time and toyed with it authoritatively; drummer Paul Motian, he of the uncommon accents, was as immediately recognizable as always.

When Bill McHenry arrived in New York in 1992, he was overshadowed by the Young Lions of his generation. But in the years since, he has slowly, quietly developed a celebrated musical identity whose bloom has only recently been noticed by more than his peers. Both New York Times jazz critics, Ben Ratliff and Nate Chinen, listed McHenry's last record, Roses, among their favorite album of any genre in 2007.

As a bandleader, McHenry is known for extracting lyricism from musical templates which verge on the abstract and the formless. It's a tricky aesthetic to pursue, but his penchant for melodic coherence keeps the ship beautifully afloat, even seemingly simple. (It helps that he possesses a distinctive, fully ripened tone, bristling with echoes of an earlier era.)

McHenry is no stranger to the Village Vanguard. He took this current quintet to the venue in 2008, and appears as a sideman or co-leader several times a year. In fact, this broadcast performance marked his second week in a row playing the Vanguard — the previous week, he upheld his longtime spot in the horn section of Guillermo Klein's Los Guachos.

Set List (Set One)
  • "Blues In A"
  • "Violetta"
  • "The Meaning Of The Blues" (Troup)
  • "Lines"
  • "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" (Styne/Cahn)
  • "A21X27100"
  • "Thrush"
  • all compositions by Bill McHenry unless otherwise noted
Set List (Set Two)
  • "Chromatic Scale in A"
  • "My Melancholy Baby" (Burnett/Norton)
  • "Norman"
  • "Study #1"
  • "Lyrical in C" / "La Cama"
  • "Other Birds"
  • "Thrush"
  • all compositions by Bill McHenry unless otherwise noted
Personnel
  • Bill McHenry, tenor saxophone
  • Duane Eubanks, trumpet
  • Andrew D'Angelo, alto saxophone/bass clarinet
  • Ben Street, bass
  • Paul Motian, drums
Credits
  • Josh Jackson, producer and host
  • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
  • Josh Webb, recording assistant
[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Loston Harris. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Loston Harris On Piano Jazz

The singer and pianist performs "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me" with host Marian McPartland.

Loston Harris On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/507397417/507539522" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

André Previn. Harald Hoffmann/Deutsche Grammophon hide caption

toggle caption Harald Hoffmann/Deutsche Grammophon

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

André Previn On Piano Jazz

The conductor, composer and pianist plays a special treatment of "Stormy Weather" in a 1990 session.

André Previn On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506487969/506720784" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Patti Wicks. Jimmy Katz/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Jimmy Katz/Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Patti Wicks On Piano Jazz

Hear the pianist and singer join Marian McPartland for a duet version of "Body And Soul."

Patti Wicks On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/505874280/505875288" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Grover Washington, Jr. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Grover Washington, Jr. On Piano Jazz

The Grammy-winning saxophonist plays Duke Ellington standards with host Marian McPartland in 1994.

Grover Washington, Jr. On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/504956273/504956800" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Meredith D'Ambrosio appears on the cover of her 1981 album Another Time. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Meredith D'Ambrosio On Piano Jazz

The vocalist, pianist, visual artist and teacher joined Marian McPartland in 1994.

Meredith D'Ambrosio On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/504133599/504135813" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Lonnie Liston Smith on the cover of Astral Traveling (1973). Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Lonnie Liston Smith On Piano Jazz

One of contemporary music's most versatile keyboardists, Smith joined Marian McPartland in 2002.

Lonnie Liston Smith In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503335536/503336370" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Nellie Lutcher. William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress hide caption

toggle caption William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Nellie Lutcher On Piano Jazz

Hear the vocalist and pianist play her original tunes "Hurry On Down" and "Real Gone Guy."

Nellie Lutcher On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/502487319/502603441" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top