Henry Darragh's debut recording Tell Her For Me
shows the maturity of a seasoned multi-instrumentalist who has traveled down many roads on his musical journey, from trombone sit-ins with popular Houston electronic artists (DJ Sun's collective Solar Grooves, Joe B's Rebel Crew, et al.), to his work with a Tejano Funk band (TJ Funk), the Broadway Show Jersey Boys, the Steve Lippia Big Band, Adela Dalto, and grinding out jazz gigs with many of the best musicians in Houston. But what pushed him as a songwriter was his work collaborating with authors and directors at the University of Houston Theater Lab, under Tony Award winner Stuart Ostrow, a former Frank Loesser apprentice. Darragh learned the concept of seeing a project through, and it shows on this release.
Tell Her For Me is the culmination of Darragh's varied experiences expressed with maturity, as he finds his voice now crooning jazz standards and originals while sitting at the piano, backed by upright bass, guitar, sax, trumpet and drums. While many debut releases seek to show-all, tell-all, Darragh instead focuses in on an understated cool" theme that swings, and the recording stands as a collective work of art, rather than a series of unrelated singles.
Much of the subject matter of these tunes covers regret, negotiating heartache, and unrequited love. One original is even entitled Regret, which begins with: I didn't ask her name. Nervous was I, too afraid."
While Missing You was written about a relationship with a girl who suddenly shipped off to college, he says it's not related to Wrong Ending, which was another story, not related to Early (originally named Not Yet) about a relationship that was just before its time. When a friend's mother died, Dream Boxes was written for the memorial service. None of these relate to his current relationship which has made Darragh ridiculously happy," and we can all expect more uplifting songs from him in the future.
But through it all Darragh is able to communicate heartfelt music that swings, and features his understated piano that floats through the room like a wisp of smoke, with expressive vocals that drip honey even when they are remorseful. The sentimental moments are made even more meaningful thanks to a few well-chosen bits of humor, such as on Everything Happens to Me (Adair/Dennis), a tune that gives new meaning to being down on one's luck:
I've telegraphed and phoned;
I sent air mail special, too;
Your answer was goodbye--
And there was even postage due.
I fell in love just once;
And then it had to be with you,
Everything happens to me.
The last song of the CD, The Harvard Dictionary Of Music Song, ends with the line just order one and your wildest dreams will come true," so it's good to know at least one possible solution to the blues.
The musicians on this recording do a good job of matching the mood. Solos by Carol Morgan (trumpet), Seth Paynter (tenor sax), Erin Wright (guitar), and Darragh himself on trombone, give the music the richness it deserves, whether it be a ballad or up-tempo swing tune. Glen Ackerman and Erin Wright trade off on upright bass, and Chuck Payne delivers the goods on drums. To hear sound clips, or view Henry Darragh's itinerary, visit HenryDarragh.com.