Thirty-five-year-old Brooklyn-born musician Cory Henry charmed a small audience in Memorial Union in early November. His performance highlighted his new album, “Operation Funk.”
Presented by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Performing Arts Committee, Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles transformed the small theater into a personal production that ended with everyone on their feet.
I first discovered Cory Henry’s music this summer at his Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival set in San Francisco, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I was so excited to learn he was playing in Madison at UW-Madison’s very own Shannon Hall.
Shannon Hall, a seated theater, is a drastically different environment than a large music festival — but Henry did not disappoint. With a combination of jazz, funk, gospel and soul, Henry reaches across genres to create his own distinct sound and appeal to a crowd ranging from college students to older adults.
His music is simultaneously modern and strongly reminiscent of ‘70s soul and funk musicians, which allows him to bypass expectations with every performance. Everybody loves Cory Henry.
Henry is an incredibly impressive, multifaceted musician. He mastered singing, songwriting, piano, organ and trombone, and he is currently learning the guitar. At two years old he was already playing both the organ and piano, and at six years old he played a show at the Apollo Theater.
Previously, Henry was a member of Snarky Puppy, an American instrumental ensemble formed in 2004. He won three Grammy awards with the band before launching his solo career in 2018 with his first independent album “Art of Love.” He has since released four solo albums with his most recent project, “Operation Funk,” in July 2022. In the past, Henry collaborated with many renowned artists including Bruce Springsteen, Imagine Dragons, Frank Ocean, Marc E. Bassy and Kanye West.
Although attendance on Thursday night was disappointingly small, everyone in the crowd was sure to make the most of their two hours with Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles. Their performance was packed with astounding instrumentals from not only Henry, but also each individually talented member of the band. Guitarist Adam Agati, bassist Sharay Reed, drummer TaRon Lockett and keyboardist Nicholas Semrad all showcased their musical abilities and clearly had fun doing so.
Watching the band throughout the show truly made me feel as though I was part of an intimate jam session among friends, and I couldn't decide who to focus my attention on. The music was infectious.
Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles played a large variety of songs ranging across their discographies, including “Testify,” “Happy Days,” “Alone” and “Good Times.” My personal favorite song of his, “Something New,” was a crowd favorite. By the time he played the hit song, “Holy Ghost,” the entire crowd was on its feet, abandoning assigned seats and flooding the aisles to dance along. The energy in the theater could not be contained, and people remained on their feet through the encore and end of the show. I was not expecting this show to turn into a dance party, but in turn, I was left with a memory I won’t ever forget.