Jazz sensation Nicole Henry said that she’s inspired by Nancy Wilson’s style and music. (Nicole Henry)

For more than 17 years, Nicole Henry has been singing and performing in front of fans, friends, family members and industry leaders.

Now, the jazz sensation will face a much tougher crowd: publishers and journalists.

Henry is scheduled to perform at the National Newspapers Publishers Association’s (NNPA) annual summer conference, on Wednesday, June 21 at the National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies operating in the United States.

“There’s an opportunity to make an impression on people who are tastemakers and I’m sure they have opinions,” Henry said. “The opportunity to present myself to a new audience is exciting and, hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain relationships with these journalists as I release [new music]. As a touring musician, you always need friends.”

Since her debut in 2000, Henry has established herself as one the jazz world’s most acclaimed vocalists, possessing what her handlers call a potent combination of dynamic vocal abilities, impeccable phrasing, and powerful emotional resonance.

Henry has earned a Soul Train Award for “Best Traditional Jazz Performance,” three Top-10 U.S. Billboard and HMV Japan jazz albums and she has been heralded by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Essence magazine and others for her ability to tell “real stories through repertoire from the American songbook,” classic and contemporary jazz, standards, blues and originals.

A native of Philadelphia, who now splits her downtime between homes in New York City and Miami, Henry has performed in more than 15 countries; headlining venues in New York, Tokyo, Madrid, Moscow, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.

The NNPA performance, which is sponsored by Macy’s, is one of a few she’ll have in the Washington, D.C.-area in June. She’s also scheduled to perform at Blues Alley on June 22.

“I’ve been singing and acting full-time since 2000 and I’ve been touring the world since 2005 and I never get tired of the road,” said Henry, whose 2004 debut CD, “The Nearness of You,” earned considerable attention from audiences and critics domestically and abroad. She won Best New Jazz Artist of 2004 in Japan and her follow up CD, “Teach Me Tonight,” topped the music charts in Japan a year later, helping her earn HMV Japan’s Best Vocal Jazz Album.

An avid admirer of the legendary Nancy Wilson, Henry has also showcased her ability to perform her own renditions of songs by such iconic hitmakers as Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Gladys Knight.

“I remember in 2000, I was invited to go on the road with a Blues and Rock band. It was the only time I’ve ever been a background singer in a professional capacity,” Henry said. “It was six weeks on a bus tour and as soon as I got home, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

While she’s planning to do more to pursue her acting career, Henry’s bread and butter remains music. She’s currently working on a Nancy Wilson tribute CD that will cover the legend’s more than five-decade career.

“[Wilson is] a living legend and I think sometimes, because she straddled two genres, she gets lost in the mix a little,” Henry said of her idol. “Not that people have forgotten Nancy Wilson; the jazz world and the pop world have a lot of respect and embrace her and I have a lot of respect for her and I’ve been influenced by her style.”

Henry noted that she’s also planning to do a CD of all original music and that she’s excited to hear what she has to say next

When asked what NNPA can expect at the summer conference, Henry didn’t hesitate.

“I would say a mix of jazz and a mix of soul and a mix of…something you haven’t seen in a little while,” she said. “I’ll be happy to do Nancy Wilson, too.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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