By Liam Hofmeister, inside editor
Cory Henry stomped, whooped and yelped through his piano set. Looking down at his mini grand piano, he played his music with precision.
On Thursday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Cory Henry, Grammy–Award–winning producer and Snarky Puppy pianist, played a solo piano show to a crowd of 200 at Berklee College’s The Red Room. When Henry walked on a steel–blue stage wearing his circle-framed sunglasses, he was met with a wave of whoops from the audience, followed by immediate silence when he sat behind the piano.
“I’m gonna play some music for you guys. Hopefully you like it,” Henry said.
At two years old, Henry began playing the organ at his church in Brooklyn, N.Y. By the time he was six, Henry played his first concert at the Apollo Theater and was regarded as a piano virtuoso. He now focuses on playing piano and producing for Snarky Puppy, a jazz and funk collective that won a Grammy in 2014 for Best R&B Performance, and performing his personal work with The Funk Apostles, another jazz collective.
He began his show with a waterfall-like run down the keys of his piano. At one second, the music felt like one was walking through city night life, while the next second brought one to a jungle chase.
The audience appeared receptive to the song’s story. Within the first five minutes of the set, the audience whistled, clapped and cried out in joy at what they heard.
Henry then moved to his rendition of “Amazing Grace,” adding jazz styling to the gospel standard. One woman exclaimed, “Play the music!” as he reached the song’s chorus.
After the church classic, Henry played a piece inspired by his upcoming album, “The Revival Project.” He shredded up and down the keys playing classic gospel. He shook and screamed in his seat as if he was possessed by the spirit of the music.
When the spiritual came to an end, Henry lifted his hand above the keys and let it rest on a synthesizer a foot above the piano. He began playing a baseline on the electric keyboard while his right hand played a melody on the piano.
The audience gasped. Two grown men standing to the side began to shake each other in glee. The number of people standing to watch the concert grew from two to 20. They wanted to see Henry’s hands in action.
To close the show, Henry played “Heart at Midnight,” a jazz piece he wrote for his deceased mother. This time, there were no cheers from the audience. Everyone sat in silent respect, only sighing in satisfaction at the song’s beauty. When the last note rang, the whole crowd jumped to its feet and applauded.
“He kills me every time,” said John Mackintosh, a Berklee College sophomore who had seen Henry perform once before. “I wanna see it again.”
Mackintosh went on to say that he felt Henry was “not just a musician.”
“He’s a storyteller,” he said. “Anyone can play a song, but that man lets the song play him.”
Photos courtesy of Royal Artist Group