Henry Darragh: Our New Favorite Houston Musician

Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to sheaserrano@gmail.com.

We were a little disappointed trading messages with multi-instrumentalist jazz superhero Henry Darragh for this week's Artist of the Week - actually, that's not completely correct. We weren't disappointed inasmuch as we were caught off-guard. Of course, this is because he is not a dick.

See, as talented as Darragh is, he absolutely should be smashing photographers' cameras at the airport and interrupting acceptance speeches and requesting outlandish things like ice chests full of white-colored pencils before shows. Alas, he's as kind and polite as his music (and pictures) would lead you to believe that he is.

At least he is now. He wasn't always.

Hit the jump to see what's what, including where the intriguing Tell Her For Me title came from, the time he was a bit of a villain and how he's excited to be able to vote now.

Lots going on here, folks.

Rocks Off: Artist of the Week opener: Tell everyone everything they need to know about Henry Darragh's music in exactly words.

Henry Darragh: Composer, pianist, trombonist, vocalist. Quadruple threat.

RO: By the way, we understand that you are Henry Darragh, and we're talking directly to you, however we feel like we should always refer to you as "Henry Darragh" like we were talking to someone else about you. We don't know why that is, it just feels appropriate.

HD: Cool.

RO: Talk a little about where Henry Darragh has been hiding. We listened to a bunch of your music and it's pretty impressive; you should be way famous right now. Do you think it has something to do with your bookish glasses?

HD: [laughs] I never thought about that. And thank you for the famous bit. I am not opposed to being able to repay my student loans via CD sales. I've had this style of glasses for 10-plus years and cannot see without glasses. I recently picked a different kind but my wife suggested otherwise. (I still want those, by the way.)

Henry Darragh, "Hey There"

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RO: We heard that before Henry Darragh became one of the city's most potentially lethal jazz musicians, he fronted a heavy metal band called Henry Darragh and the Darraghtites. Can Henry Darragh tell us about why he made the switch?

HD: Well, I just thought that the world wasn't ready. Maybe next album we can hint at my roots.

RO: Quite frankly, Tell Her For Me is excellent. Even the title is interesting. How did that whole thing come together?

HD: The title came from a remarkable song I found in an encyclopedia of music book. A nice lady named Robin Rinker game me the collection. And all her vinyl. And all the big band stuff she had. She was moving out of her house into an apartment and her family didn't want them.

That meeting took place at the teachers credit union in Pasadena. It was borderline magical, and also a bit strange because I'd never had a senior citizen flirt with me before that.

Anyhow, I got Selma and Morty Craft's Tell Her For Me and re-harmonized it in a lesson with composer Rich DeRosa. I started singing it on my gigs and since there is only one other recorded version of it (a do-wop) version. I felt it perfect for my recording.

RO: Are active jazz musicians real cocky and whatnot, like rappers or rock stars? Like, has Henry Darragh ever listened to another jazz guy and thought, "This guy's for shit. I'm totally more talented than him," and then left said musician an anonymous comment on his site saying as much?

D: Well, in truth I talked smack about Karen Marleston at San Jac when she became a faculty member there. Looking back, it was probably because she took Mark Johnson's place after he died. I was more of an asshole back then and drank heavily. It's no excuse, but no, I didn't put it on a message board.

I don't think it's in the nature of good jazz musicians to talk shit about others. The greats that I've been fortunate enough to meet were humble and kind souls; probably why they are jazz journeymen.

RO: Anything that you want to make sure gets mentioned? Now's the time to do it.

D: I'm in my first semester of a DMA doctorate of musical arts at the Moores School of Music. This will be my third degree at the school. The jazz department's next concert is next Tuesday, November 16 in the Moores Opera House.

Oh, also I want to thank the Texas Board of Pardon's and Paroles for making a good decision on me in 2002. I've been on probation, in prison or on parole since 1998. I am excited to register to vote next March and want to give hope to anyone who thinks they cannot attain their dreams coming true.

Keep tabs on our new favorite musician at www.henrydarragh.com.

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