The holidays are approaching, complete with the festive sounds of classic Christmas carols, and Fort Gibson native Brad Henderson has positioned his new album at the forefront of the season.
“Christmas: Off the Charts” is set for a Nov. 1 release.
The Northeastern State University alumnus has worked up a 12-track instrumental jazz project, featuring holiday favorites like “The Christmas Song,” “We Three Kings,” and “Silent Night.”
“[We Three Kings] is a jazz waltz, switching to a blues shuffle on the bridges,” said Henderson. “[It has] lots of open sections for solos. Notice the subtle 83 works by Nashville’s Blair Masters. [The Christmas Song] is a classy bossa nova that features lead flugel horn by Steve Goforth, and a nice tenor sax solo by Gary Linde.”
As for the most popular carol of all time, “Silent Night” will feature Jermaine Mondaine on the alto saxophone, and according to Henderson, the track will be anything but silent.
“This is a very soulful approach,” he said. “Very ‘Saturday Night Live’ band-like.”
Henderson, who grew up in Fort Gibson, has been involved in writing and playing music for most of his life, teaching himself to play several instruments along the way.
“Music was always part of my home,” he said. “My dad and kinfolk had a country/bluegrass jam session every Monday in different homes. I’ve been around music and musicians literally all of my life. My grandmother, Cora Henderson, taught piano in her home after school. I got to sit in the same room on the couch and observe, and once everyone was gone, I’d try to pick through what she had been teaching.”
Beyond simply exposing him to the music, itself, Henderson’s passion was fueled by his grandmother’s approach to teaching.
“She was patient and encouraging that I learn to use my ear, as well as learn to read the notes. I preferred the ear approach. I played in the [Fort Gibson] high school band and college bands on trombone and baritone, and while I can’t say it was all that good, it served me well when writing for horns. I think I understand how they function better because I play them, even with on a somewhat limited basis.”
In addition to the family influence, Henderson’s melodious aptitude was cultivated with time spent at the Northeastern State Jazz Lab.
“I could say that the 10 years at the Jazz Lab were extremely formative in my musical journey,” he said. “Joe Davis and Will Campbell introduced me to so much great music and gave me a ton of opportunities to work on arranging my chops. Lots of late-night writing sessions, followed by lots of late-night re-writing sessions. Those two guys gave me the confidence to put my work out there.”
Equally impactful was time spent with a group known as “Up with People,” a global education organization whose mission is to bridge cultural barriers through music and service.
“I spent 5-1/2 years traveling with ‘Up with People’; it was a great way to see the world and, frankly, discover the world is bigger than my small hometown,” said Henderson. “I was given many chances with the group, started to learn the craft of producing music, from mixing to arranging to playing and leading. It was invaluable – and exhausting. I still miss it.”
Henderson has done stints as a music director for churches, and through PraiseCharts.com has written, arranged, recorded, produced and played music for many groups and venues around the globe.
For Henderson, the role of songwriter provides the greatest thrill.
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