Nicole Henry

It is little wonder this Miami-based 30-something has been getting a lot of attention since signing a national distribution deal through a major label. An experienced singer who has appeared on stages in Japan and France as well as at venues like New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center, Henry is able to transcend genres by taking on both standards and more radio-friendly contemporary material, making them her own. For instance, her interpretation of "Over the Rainbow" goes into a Latin/samba direction that erases the melancholy of Harold Arlen's words, giving them a glimpse of hope and happiness. Also, her version of "At Last" has more of a bluesy feel that differs completely from Etta James' definitive rendition. On her latest disc, titled The Very Thought of You, she explores the songbooks of some of the greatest jazz composers of the 20th Century, breathing new life into tunes like the title song (made famous by Nat "King" Cole) as well as revved-up versions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's classics "Waters of March" and "All the Way." Henry has great poise and style on stage, whether backed by a simple piano trio or a big band, and her almost flawless singing is quick to capture the attention of everyone in the room.

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Ernest Barteldes