Ashley Henry, born and raised in South London, brings the diversity of London – and more – into his music. Finding inspiration in everyone from Nas to Jason Rebello and everything from grime to punk, Henry is able to communicate a wide range of emotions effortlessly with the audience. At EartH Hackney Arts Centre Henry was able to take a genre of music that often seems inaccessible to many and translate it into something easily understandable and yet transcendental at the same time. This was made an even more difficult task given his frequent use of rearrangements from Nas’ This World Is Yours to The Enemy’s Pressure.
His latest album, Beautiful Vinyl Hunter, touches on so many emotions with the empowering Start Child, the beautiful and reflective Colours and the outright powerful Battle. In part, this is achieved by utilising talent from around the world from poet Joshua Idehen, to trumpetist Keyon Harrold, to Judi Jackson. His live performance was no different, bringing special guest after special guest on stage, giving them the space to lead whilst Henry played a commanding and yet subtle role leading the band from the back. His core band comprised himself, a drummer and a bassist whilst a djembe player and guitarist rotated in and out for different tracks.
His songs were divided by stories he shared with the crowd including discussing how songs were written and his time at university with guests he brought out, interspersed by jokes that had the audience laughing along. All this added to the feeling his music created of sharing the room with us, speaking to us through his music and breaking down the barrier between performer and spectator. Ashley Henry’s performance was at once technical and relatable, beautiful and understandable and comprised all of the characteristics of an experienced musician despite his young age. There is certainly more to come.
The EFG London jazz festival continues until 24 November.