October 05, 1987 12:00 PM

Henry Butler

The latest phenom to come up the river from New Orleans is, at 38, no rookie, but he can sing R&B soulfully and play a fistful of jazz piano. Henry Butler’s greatest talent might be as a composer of sprightly tunes such as those on this two-record set, particularly the title cut. He is also an avid amateur photographer, noteworthy because he has been blind since birth. Sorting out his many talents may be Butler’s biggest challenge. On his debut LP last year he included everything from a spiritual to a string arrangement of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. The Village is more disciplined, and the sidemen Butler has attracted—including Ron Carter on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums—attest to his potential. The way he plays takes some getting used to, though. Butler sounds a lot like McCoy Tyner, but Butler’s articulation is not quite on the same level. His phrasing and touch sometimes sound a little slapdash, as if he gets carried away with his own exuberance. When he doesn’t pound every tremendous chord right through the floor, he can be delightful, even dazzling. The Village is an encouraging step toward maturity and consolidation. (MCA/Impulse!)

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