This Cory Henry article was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
You may not have heard of Cory Henry and his newly formed Funk Apostles. But you will more than likely have heard of the jazz ensemble, Snarky Puppy, in which Henry represents the core values of the foundation of groove.
A virtuoso on the keys, and a connoisseur of jazz, soul and gospel, Cory’s solo project, with assistance from The Funk Apostles, is destined for similar fame and status as the Grammy winning, internationally acclaimed Snarky Puppy.
Being a man of groove and rhythm, it’s needless to say that such a solo project that connotes Henry’s inspirations and musings would consist of a solid rhythm band. Where Apostles differs to any other band, is the two highly sought after percussionists: TaRon Lockett and Cleon Edwards, who they have at their disposal. Assisted by Sharay Reed on bass, Andrew Ballie on guitar, and rhythm keys by Nick Semrad, the Apostles consist upon a strong understanding of jazz and complex rhythm in all forms.
As Cory and the Apostles took to the stage in front of a neon illustration of Cory’s signature goatee, hat and sunglasses, delicate sounds melted with an uncertain composure from the two Korgs; Cory’s chosen synths. Almost like a line check, atonal melodies were plucked out of thin air as Cory began to jam; with other members slowly surrendered to the groove from the shadows.
With no album, song titles, or structure to their set, the band transformed from one style to another with infectious groove and improvised riffs. Throughout, Cory presented the crowd with his unique ability to lead, and to take the side role, as he jumped around the intimate stage, shaking a tambourine to the beat and enthusiastically encouraging the audience to join in.
His beaming smile shone through the venue, as he sporadically hopped from one side of the stage to his keys, to the other performers, as the improvised material took form into intricate jazz beats. The real stars of the show, after Cory’s energetic performance, were TaRon and Cleon, as they became the spine of the set. Without any breaks, the two would kept an indestructible composure, finishing each others fills and musical phrasings like telekinetic twins.
After the improvised form broke down; the percussionists dropped into a completely different bpm and time signature in total synchronism and without any communication. If that wasn’t enough, Cory teased a synthesised and distorted hook of Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’, a cover that caught everyone off guard. As the room disintegrated into ear splitting woops, Sharay’s bass lines shook the venues interiors, with all the ferocity of an EDM concert.
And finally, the quiet Andrew Ballie, who had spent most of the gig supporting the percussion with vamped chords, burst into life with an incredible solo. The groove became a fluid conception supported by the powerful synchronisation of chords and fills, as Ballie shredded through his jaw dropping performance; and all the while Cory was clapping along, just as mesmerised as the audience. The group possess the star like quality to bring a room to an utter stand still.
Another song, ‘1999’ allows Cory to utilise a talk box, hooked up to one of his synths, to create a robotic auto tuned quality. At other times, he incorporated chants and dances and teased the audience, in a Freddie Mercury fashion of call and response; sometimes asking for impossible notes to be sung.
The night came to a ecstatic finish, after an intense two hour performance. It feels like nothing has really been said about the performance, because it’s impossible to put into words. Check them out, because Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles are one of the rare acts that cannot be summed up in a few words of praise.