Interview \\ Ashley Henry has a new album on the way
In the past year Ashley Henry has taken vast strides in his music career. The London based artist has become one of the most sought after young Jazz pianists, touring across America and the UK. Ahead of his performance on the EZH stage at The Great Escape, Nina Fine caches up with Henry to find out what treats we can expect from the upcoming album and what pearls of wisdom he’s learned from Terrance Blanchard.
\\ It’s been a fast moving few years since you graduated; How do you maintain momentum?
That’s an interesting question – since leaving college I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a wide range of different projects. One day I’ll be recording for a electronica or beats project, the next day I’ll be on stage with the Outlook Orchestra and then I’ll be in Europe somewhere performing my own music the day after, it’s crazy! I think what’s lead to that is putting myself in an environment where I’m constantly surrounded by musicians and artists that push and inspire me… Also being open to as many different styles as possible! I’ve never really thought about success as I’ve just started my journey but momentum equals energy and that is fuelled by enjoying many musical styles.
\\ Why do you believe that current music from South London is being received so well both in a national and international capacity?
I feel like South London has played such a HUGE part in London’s sound system culture over the years! And now the torch is being carried in many different settings but without the energy being compromised. It’s a good time right now!
\\ You’ve been described as an “inventive arranger.” Tell me about your take on Nas’ ‘The World Is Yours’ and how you approach arranging.
It’s funny because of the rare jazz recordings we listened to for studying the vernacular, many were rearrangements of popular tracks at the time… the only real difference now is we have access to so much more music it can be crazy intimidating to do a serious arrangement. But crafting and bouncing an arrangement, for me, means paying a degree of homage but ensuring you’re more focused on telling your own story. What’s interesting about the The World Is Yours arrangement is that I tried to recreate a segment from a recorded jam session and through that ended up with something completely different and just more honest.
\\ You have supported and collaborated with a phenomenal list of musicians. What are the most memorable experiences you have taken and how has that shaped your own personal development?
There’s too many experiences to mention but one of the most memorable was when I was working with Terrence Blanchard. We were rehearsing one of his tunes and I was classic comping behind his solo, and he stopped the band. Told me not to follow the traditions and to play more like myself because he heard it in me and was really encouraging. From that one moment I learnt a lot and discovered so much about my playing and improvising. Opened so many doors for me!
As well as stories like that, learning how to be a band leader, lead a studio session and learning about the business are other key elements I’ve learned from bandleaders I’ve collaborated with.
\\ You have recently released Easter EP, with promise of an album. What can we expect from the new album and will we be hearing any of it at your performance on the EZH stage?
Yeah, the new album is on it’s way! Lots of fresh writing, songs and compositions and I feel so blessed by some of the people who have been collaborating with me. I’ll be definitely dropping a few new tracks for the EZH Stage at Great Escape on 19 May and at my Rich Mix headline gig on Friday, 18 May.
EZH | Nina Fine