Superb singer Nicole Henry named her program at Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center “Where Love Is.” There was plenty about love in her songs, and there was also well-earned audience love for Henry herself, given her appealing way with music and lyrics in her chosen repertoire for her two-night gig (May 29 and 30).
What’s more, there was the attraction of her terrific backup band. David Rosenthal contributed elegant solos on guitar. Richie Goods on bass, Shedrick Mitchell on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums also had their entertaining moments in the spotlight. The excellent blend between Henry and her musicians added impact to numbers chosen.
Henry has a smooth-as-silk musical style that first establishes intimacy with her audience, and then she edges ahead as she escalates with her vocal power. She looks great (this time clad in a clinging dress attractively patterned in red and black) and she moves scintillatingly when listening to a musician’s solo, as well as using body language to emphasize particular lyrics.
The fact that her chosen songs were all about love offered the opportunity to pour out her heart and soul, sometimes with easygoing tenderness and at other moments with impassioned vigor. Her versatile voice accommodates whatever mood she is attempting to project.
Her opener was “Almost Like Being in Love” (music by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner), which she charged up dramatically. Her “Wild is the Wind” (Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington) had intricate emotional appeal. In her rendition of “Don’t Take Your Love From Me” (Henry Nemo), Henry projected tender pleading. There was a thoughtful mood in her interpretation of “What’ll I Do?” by Irving Berlin, which she introduced with an account of Berlin falling in love. Henry did quite a few informational introductions which explained reasons for her choices. She also gave a fresh, moving rendition of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Henry turned intriguingly pensive in singing “All My Tomorrows” by Jimmy van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.
Another strong point is Henry’s ability to have fun with a song. “Joe” enabled her to look at a guy who may be acceptable as an experience but is basically a jerk not meant for a serious relationship. Another in a similar vein was “Until It’s Time for You to Go” (Buffy Saint-Marie) about relations with a man until a woman decides to get him out of her life.
When Henry sang “That’s All” (Genesis), she infused it with total commitment, and a jazzy take at full strength to convey giving everything to love. In “Save Your Love for Me” (Johnny and Sue Edward) she reached passionate intensity. In a complete change of tone, Henry did as her encore “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a hymn, which has words by Thomas Crisholm and music provided much later by William M. Runyan. There was a gospel-like aura to this triumphant conclusion.
I had recently enjoyed Henry in a stint as part of the latest “Broadway by the Year” concert at the Town Hall (See Search and Theater) and welcomed the opportunity to catch her in a show of her own. The experience at Dizzy’s underscored why Henry is such a superior cabaret artist. In one of her introductions she made a point of saying how inspired she has been by the late Nancy Wilson. Yes, there is a similarity in style, and Henry is coming out with a CD that celebrates Wilson. At Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street. Phone: 22-258-9595. Reviewed May 31, 2019.