Trombonist COREY HENRY has what many musicians would consider the ideal upbringing: Raised in the neighborhood of Treme, the birthplace of jazz and a stone’s throw away from Congo Square, surrounded and nurtured by some of the most important musicians in New Orleans history.
TREME: THE BIGGEST INSPIRATION
Born in July 1975, Henry grew up on Barracks Street just down from Little People’s Club, once a popular spot for second line parade stops in the Treme. Henry was the third child in a family of five boys and two girls. His grandfather Chester Jones played bass drum in a traditional jazz band at Preservation Hall. His uncle is Benny Jones of the world-renowned Treme Brass Band. “Being in Treme was my biggest inspiration, being around all that music at once. We always had brass bands playing – the Pinstripes, Olympia, the Dirty Dozen. I’d go outside and they’d be playing a party or doing a second line. I got inspired by that and of course it’s in my family, my uncle and grandfather.”
As a result of this musical environment, Henry didn’t learn his craft in the school band the way many other brass band musicians in New Orleans do. Treme was his music classroom; family members and neighbors on every block were his teachers. “I always had people like Tuba Fats giving me tips on what I needed to do during gigs; Freddie Kemp, sax player with Fats Domino; also Stackman, Frederick Shepard, Roderick Lewis. They all lived in the neighborhood and played with the Treme Brass Band.”
Henry started on the snare drum but switched over to the trombone at the age of 10. When he turned 16, his uncle Benny hired him to play with the Treme Brass Band. “He just threw me in the mix with all those bad musicians, said ‘This is how you gon’ learn. Just go for it.’ So I learned doing it live, not during rehearsals. It was like learning on the job.” Showing him the ropes along with his uncle was trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. “They put me with a lot of musicians who were phenomenal, taught me a lot about stage presence, how to conduct yourself, coming to gigs on time.” He counts legendary trombonists Keith ‘Wolf’ Anderson and Revert Andrews as mentors who helped him develop his unique sound. “It was these two different musicians showing me things and me listening and practicing and just researching, being hungry and eager to learn.”
With “Lapeitah,” his national debut from Louisiana Red Hot Records, Henry reveals a signature playing style and the ability to lead a band with his own muscular voice and his trombone blasting through the room like a fast-coming train, fueled further by the crowd’s energy that he inspires.