Bluesbreakers - Henri Herbert

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“I don’t know when I started playing piano, because I honestly can’t remember,” laughs Henri Herbert. “I can’t ever remember not playing, but I’ve got a photo of me aged about three playing piano standing on a chair,” he adds helpfully

Herbert is best known as the pianist with The Jim Jones Revue who ensured the rock’n’roll firebrands continued to testify around the world until they called it a day in 2014. Now he’s striking out as a solo artist and one third of the Henri Herbert Band. Rock’n’roll and the blues bit early: “I can remember listening to the first Rolling Stones LP, and it was very prominent around the house when I was growing up. Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry were on a lot and I remember really liking those two, and Elvis.”

Though his parents possessed a varied record collection that included Jim Reeves and classical music, it was rock’n’roll that stood out for him. He started playing along with Jerry Lee Lewis once he realised the piano was The Killer’s weapon of choice. Having spent years playing in rock’n’roll and blues bands across the UK and Europe, Herbert’s vision was sharpened when he received the call from The Jim Jones Revue in the wake of the departure of Elliot Mortimer. “I had to drop everything I was doing and play with them,” he recalls. “It was very rewarding to be a part of that and it was good just to focus all my energies on that one band.”

The Jim Jones Revue split after eight years with band members wanting to do something new. Herbert’s initial nerves about going solo were soon assuaged when the video of *Henri’s Boogie *[see below] where the pianist displayed his boogie-woogie skills at London’s St Pancras station, went viral on the internet. “It showed me that there were people out there who were interested in what I was doing. It helped me overcome my fear of going solo so I went for it,” he explains. But initially it wasn’t so easy taking centre stage: “I was waiting for the fear to go away but I realised that it would never go away unless I just went and did it.”

With over 100 shows performed since last year with a variety of pick-up bands, Herbert has reunited with JJR drummer Nick Jones, and old friend Tim Purkess joins them on bass. “It’s great to have Nick Jones on board,” Herbert enthuses. “He’s a very good friend of mine and he’s a great drummer. I feel so lucky to have such great guys in the band.” As evidenced by the trio’s series of devastatingly brilliant gigs and a forthcoming EP, things are looking up. “I’m excited and terrified,” he confesses, “but more excited!”

**INFLUENCES **

“What I get from Jerry Lee Lewis, Albert Hammond and Otis Spann is their rhythmic power; I find it extremely exciting. They’re three guys who could do a show on their own without any backing. They’re so powerful and I love that rhythm that they get going. They’re very exuberant.”