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Appealing to the Spirit


Possessing his own sense of swing and style, veteran jazz pianist William Henderson eschews virtuosity. The musician, who will appear on Wednesday at Spazio in Sherman Oaks with bassist John Heard's trio, would rather make less demonstrative statements that give people a good feeling.

"I don't go for bravado, trying to impress anyone," said Henderson, who has played with such jazz greats as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, drummer Elvin Jones, vibist Bobby Hutcherson, saxophonist Harold Land and, steadily for the last 15 years, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.

"I try to convey something that will lift people up, spiritually," he said. "That's what's needed."

A favorite uncle informed Henderson about the possibilities in the correlation of notes and feelings.

"He told me you can play a certain note or interval or chord that will make you feel peaceful, just like others will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck," the pianist said.

"It has to do with vibrations, and vibrations affect the body."

Henderson aims for a spiritual slant whether he's playing a pop standard or an original, though perhaps more so with the latter.

"I try to generate a little peace and healing as far as the keys of the tunes and the melodies and intervals of the songs I write are concerned," he said.

At Spazio, Henderson will join Heard and drummer Don Littleton and will get to express the whole of his musical personality, digging into familiar numbers as well as his own compositions.

Sometimes he'll pick up another of his instruments, the soprano saxophone. He enjoys teaming up with the bassist on a big sound and supple-lined approach.

"John doesn't play too loud, and I like his voice on the bass," Henderson said. "His ideas are very interesting."

Henderson has had a rich musical life and easily recalls memorable engagements.

In the early '60s, the pianist went on the road with vibist Terry Gibbs. "I play vibes, too, and sometimes I'd jump up from the keyboard and push him from the vibes and then he'd sit down at the piano," he said. "That was great fun."

Also noteworthy: Spazio will host the remarkable saxophonist Doug Webb on Monday and March 12 and 19 at 8 p.m. No cover or minimum.

Guitarist Ron Anthony, who spent many years accompanying Frank Sinatra, will deliver standards and jazz tunes with a warm tone and pleasing note choices on Wednesdays in March at 8 p.m. at Charlie O's Bar & Grill, 13725 Victory Blvd., Valley Glen. No cover, no minimum. (818) 994-3058.


William Henderson plays with John Heard's trio on Wednesday and March 14 at 8 p.m. at Spazio, 14755 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. No cover, no minimum. Call (818) 728-8400.


Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at

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