Bill Henderson debuted during the 1950s, one of many ways in which he can be compared to the late Johnny Hartman. Both jazz vocalists showed plenty of promise early on, appearing with various bands during the decade and recording for prominent labels with major musicians. While each of them had their respective heydays during the 1960s, they had only sporadic opportunities to record as leaders afterwards. But though Hartman succumbed to cancer in 1983, Henderson continued to perform.
Surprisingly, this 2007 concert by Henderson at The Vic in Santa Monica not only marked his 81st birthday, but it was his first recording under his own name in over a quarter-century. Well accompanied by veteran drummer Roy McCurdy, pianist Tateng Katindig and bassist Chris Conner, Henderson sounds like a man decades younger, without the wear and tear of that vocalists of his age normally exhibit, though the experience acquired over time is evident during his performance.
There are numerous highlights throughout this memorable concert. "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" is all but owned by Ernestine Anderson, but Henderson puts his stamp on it, backed by strident piano chords and walking bass. The gospel-inflected take of "You Are My Sunshine" radiates warmth while "That Old Black Magic" is rarely taken at such a deliberate tempo. "Tulip or Turnip" was a jive feature for Ray Nance written by Duke Ellington during World War II; Henderson swings it for all it's worth.
There are some offbeat moments. Henderson's deliberate, ruminative take of "A Sleepin' Bee" adds a soft but superfluous synthesizer line in the background. Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" hardly has the makings of a standard with its weak lyrics, despite Henderson giving it his all. Still, Beautiful Memory, labeled a "limited edition," is an enjoyable listen.
All the Things You Are; Never Make Your Move Too Soon; You Are My Sunshine; Royal Garden Blues: A Sleepin' Bee; The Moon Was Yellow; Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word; The Song is You; That Old Black Magic; Never Kiss and Run; Living Without You; Tulip or Turnip.
Bill Henderson: vocals; Tateng Katindig: piano, keyboards; Chris Conner: bass; Roy McCurdy: drums.