Henry Butler, 68, of cancer in New York City on July 2nd. A New Orleans jazz pianist who settled in New York after he lost his home to Hurricane Katrina. He grew up in the Calliope housing development, a vibrant New Orleans community known for producing many musicians in recent decades. Initially teaching himself to play piano by ear he eventually learned how to read braille scores while at the Louisiana State School for the Blind. He was making successful public appearances by the time he was twelve. He attended Southern University with a focus on music and learned to accompany his playing with his artful singing.
He played in the New Orleans piano style of Professor Long Hair and James Booker, absorbing the sounds of the city’s 50’s and 60’s R&B with jazz always remaining the mother language.
He frequently appeared at clubs in New Orleans and at festivals around the world. He was proudly capable of navigating life despite his disability. He even pursued photography, relying on friends to describe what they saw before lining up the frame. Though he was diagnosed with cancer last year he continued to schedule performances. He appeared at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this spring, toured to China and Australia in May, and had a European tour scheduled for this summer.