Drummer Henry Cole is at the forefront of a growing wave of jazz innovation and cross-cultural rhythm in the 21st century. With his flexibility, grace and sheer power behind the drum kit, he has proven indispensable to the sound of some of the world’s most acclaimed jazz groups, including the Grammy-nominated Miguel Zenón Quartet (Awake, Esta Plena, Alma Adentro]), Grammy winner David Sánchez (Cultural Survival), the Edward Simon Trio, and the all-star quartet “90 Miles” featuring Sánchez, Stefon Harris and Christian Scott.
Henry is also asserting himself as leader of the Afro-Beat Collective, which releases its debut album Roots Before Branches in 2012. Drawing on the raw groove and momentum of Fela Anikulapo Kuti as well as the depth and complexity of modern jazz, Henry strives with the Afro Beat Collective to integrate all his varied influences, including Puerto Rican folklore, funk and R&B, jazz and Afro- Caribbean rhythmic traditions.
The San Jose Mercury News praises Henry’s “explosively detailed” playing, and All About Jazz notes his ability to “make instantaneous, organic adjustments at every turn.” In an article for Modern Drummer titled “The Future of Drumming” (January 2006), Henry was cited as an outstanding young player to watch by illustrious fellow drummers Alex Acuña, John Riley and Antonio Sanchez. In a 2009 JazzTimesmagazine feature, journalist Fernando Gonzalez explored Henry’s visionary approach, his translation of Puerto Rico’s street-style pandero requinto drumming to the drum set is just one example of Henry’s bridging of traditions and disciplines in the service of a unique individual sound.
Born in 1979 and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Henry relocated to San Juan in 1999 to study classical percussion at the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico. He began his jazz immersion at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1998, but soon returned to San Juan, where he became one of the most in-demand and influential jazz drummers on the island. There he gained pivotal, formative experience in the varied music scene of Old San Juan: “It was very small,” Henry recalls, “but it had all styles and genres, so it was easy to go from one to the other and learn from all. I was playing rock, salsa, jazz, electronic music, all in the same week. That’s college right there.”
During this time Henry worked extensively within and beyond the world of jazz, with artists such as Giovanni Hidalgo, Dave Valentin, Jerry Gonzalez, Danilo Pérez, Branford Marsalis, Luis Marin, William Cepeda’s Afro-Rican Jazz, salsa artists La PVC, the rock band Vivanativa and many more.