Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

The jazz artist returned to the basement with further proof of her greatness.

By: Dec. 16, 2022
Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME
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There was a buzz in the air for the Nicole Henry show Sunday night that was different than that usually to be found inside of Broadway's Living Room, an energy shift discernible to those who spend a significant amount of time at the popular Supper Club. The crowd felt different, more relaxed, at home - they felt comfortable and safe in their surroundings, calm and peaceful, even in their excitement over what was about to happen. It seemed as though the house lights had been lowered to half-level, providing an ambiance, a warming glow not unlike that of a fireplace, and the benevolence of the season hung in the air, over the heads of smartly-dressed Manhattan aesthetes, as they sipped cool cocktails out of sleek stemware. This was Nicole Henry's crowd, these were Nicole Henry's people, and they were on hand to welcome Nicole Henry home - and 54 Below is Nicole Henry's New York City artistic home, appropriate because the title of the jazz proficient's show last weekend was WHEN I THINK OF HOME. Make no mistake, on Sunday night, everyone at 54 Below was home.

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Nicole Henry has made her mark in the jazz world, garnering great reviews and a huge following, internationally, especially in Japan, where jazz has a particular resonance. A few years ago, the statuesque beauty with the sultry speaking voice brought to 54 Below a cabaret show, a Whitney Houston tribute that she and director WILL NUNZIATA had crafted as a piece of cabaret theater, and, ever since, Nicole Henry has returned to the room, as the cabaret world discovers and embraces Nicole as ardently as the jazz world has these many years. Mabel Mercer Foundation head and cabaret doyenne KT Sullivan is among those who believe that jazz and cabaret are part of the same family, kissin' cousins, if you will, and that there is no reason why there shouldn't be a cross-pollination of the two within the cabaret and concert industry and the community. Perhaps during one of her trips to New York, the Miami-based Henry might pay a visit to jazz club Birdland to get in on some Jim Caruso's Cast Party action or make an appearance in The Lineup With Susie Mosher, thus cementing her place in the Manhattan music scene.

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

For her WHEN I THINK OF HOME show, the always fashionable singing sensation chose a program that combined Christmas, pop, Broadway, the Great American Songbook, and even some gospel. Insistently insinuating herself into the room at 54 Below like a gentle tsunami, Nicole Henry had the crowd's energy pulsating stronger and stronger with "Can You Feel It" until, by the time her feet actually touched down on the stage, the whole room was smiles galore, chair dancing, finger snapping, clapping, and swaying. Jockeying back Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME and forth between the Broadway she was brought up with (a spectacular "Be A Lion") and the jazz that has made her a star (a rhythmic Latin-infused "O Come All Ye Faithful"), Nicole showed her audience that she is more than just one thing. Nicole Henry can swing jazz, she can perform Broadway, and she can rock pop: Indeed, one of the evening highlights was an unbelievable performance of "Precious Lord" that was made richer by the reminiscences of her childhood, of her family, and of the presence in their lives of the church and the spirituality that led them ("We prayed music in my household"). Ms. Henry crafted a program with purpose (working simultaneously with two directors, the afore-mentioned WILL NUNZIATA and David Sexton), allowing her an opportunity to share stories on the theme of Home, which wasn't only about the kinfolk that she described in loving detail, but also about the band on the stage with her, made up of musicians who have taken those jaunts to Japan and other vistas Nicole has played. Through humor-informed monologues, Ms. Henry outlined her journey as a singer, her formative years in school, church, and a two bedroom/one bathroom apartment in Andalusia, Pennsylvania. One of the most fun and enjoyable factors of these stories that bridged Nicole's onstage time between songs was the laid-back jocularity of the soft-spoken narrative that segued into impossibly powerful, mind-blowing musical vocals, showing, once more, that Nicole Henry is not just one thing.

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

One of the benefits of seeing Nicole Henry in person is the way that the Lady lives in the music. Not content to park and bark, the versatile vocalist is not about to let a sleek evening gown restrict her ability to move, so every pop song (a Harold Melvin/Spinners medley), disco number ("MacArthur Park"), or Christmas tune ("This Christmas") featured moves so smooth as to make one wish Studio 54 were still open so that a post-show dance Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME party with Nicole was part of the program. Really, who can shimmy down into a deep knee bend in an evening gown and stilettos? Nicole Henry, for one. All of Nicole's shows built on quality, When I Think of Home was extra special because the holiday season and the show theme, itself, gave way to certain aspects that don't inform all of Henry's acts. For example, moments before singing "This Christmas" Nicole explained that the famous composition is the official black Christmas song and "If you recognize the song, please sing along with it; if you don't recognize this song, this is your official invitation to go make more black friends," which drew instantaneous applause, laughter and cheers. Statements like this must be made, unfortunately, and Nicole made it happen with grace, humor, and honesty.

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Continuing with the Christmas facet of the evening, a song was performed, it's not really a Christmas song but because the word Christmas is in the first sentence, it has become one. Thank goodness for that because Nicole Henry's emotional turn with Joni Mitchell's "River" was touching and heartfelt, leaving many in the room (including Henry, herself) misty-eyed and checking their cheeks for mascara. As if the heartstrings moment were not strong enough, Nicole wrapped the night with the song that gave her show its title, "Home." Inarguably one of the greatest songs ever written, and one with weighty significance to our black siblings, the ballad (no, the anthem) from The Wiz was like a warm security blanket in the hands of this singing actress who has been making her mark in the jazz world, but who this writer believes should be standing on the biggest stages of the world, alongside the biggest divas in the world. Nicole Henry is special and everyone everywhere needs to be exposed to this magical force of musical artistry, nothing could be more clear after this latest round of shows at 54 Below.

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

If you haven't, yet, had a chance to delve into the Nicole Henry experience, there simply isn't enough praise that I could offer to encourage you to do so. Find her music online and dive in, find out where she is playing and get there. Enjoy the jazz, cherish the pop, relish the rock, live in the Broadway, embrace the standards, and love all the facets of this artist because Nicole Henry isn't just one thing - she is everything.

The superb When I Think Of Home musicians are

David Cook on piano

Richie Goods on bass

Mike Piolet on drums

Max Light on guitar

Sheldon Ray on background vocals

Find great shows to see on the 54 Below website HERE.

Visit the Nicole Henry website HERE.

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME

Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME Review: Nicole Henry Brings Warmth And Wonder to 54 Below With WHEN I THINK OF HOME



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