New Orleans Jazz Pianist Henry Butler Dies In New York At 69

Henry Butler
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– Henry Butler
Henry Butler and The Jambalaya Band performs during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2018 at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 29

Henry Butler, a quintessential jazz pianist and one of the last of his generation of New Orleans musical legends, died July 2 in a New York hospice facility. He was 69 and had been treated for metastatic colon cancer.

His death was confirmed by manager Art Adelstein, according to the New York Times. Butler lived in Brooklyn since 2009.

But he was a member of a distinctly New Orleans musical circle that included Jelly Roll Morton, James Booker, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, and Dr. John.

Dr. John described Butler as “the pride of New Orleans and visionistical down-home cat and a hellified piano plunker to boot,” according to the Times.

Butler, blinded by glaucoma from infancy, performed with Ivan Neville’s all-star group the New Orleans Social Club; Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9; and many others.

He began playing professionally at dances and clubs at 14, graduating to the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970. Butler appeared at nearly every Jazzfest since, including this year’s. He also taught at the Performing Arts High School of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.