Since leaving Boston Horns in the spring of 2011, Henley Douglas Jr. — saxophonist and co-founder of the funk-heavy band – has branched out, exploring other genres with several new groups.
Douglas of Salem, a CAD designer during the day, plays out several nights a week on the North Shore, up in Cape Ann and occasionally in Boston.
One band, Soul Force V, is a six-piece featuring Christina McGhie on vocals and guitarist Peter Fedele on guitar.
“This band plays a lot of b-side soul covers,” said Douglas. “It’s a lot of fun because we re-arrange these songs to sound different than the originals.”
Another project is HD R&B, a sextet featuring singer Douglas Gimbel and guitarist Charlie O’Neal.
“We play original soul and instrumentals,” he said of HD R&B. “The original music comes from jamming live on gigs. We come up with ideas for horn lines and chord changes.
“Gimbel can freestyle, making up verses and choruses,” he said. “It’s not a rap freestyle but actual live song-writing. We just finished a five-song EP which will be available on I-Tunes soon.
Both bands, according to Douglas, feature regular players — John Iltis on drums, David Walker on bass and “Squantch” on trombone.
“These guys have had my back for four years,” he said. “They’re amazing musicians who study, rehearse and always bring a creative spirit to every gig we play.”
Guitarist Eric Reardon plays with both bands sometimes, he added.
On Tuesdays, Douglas heads north, to Gloucester.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a Tuesday night residency at the Rhumbline in Gloucester,” he said. “I rotate both HD R&B and Soul Force V on alternate (weeks). We have a consistent following there. The crowd is cross-cultural and cross-generational (and) shows up at 10 p.m. to listen and dance to the music every week.”
Douglas has a couple other jazz projects, too: Cool Times Trio, with Mark Retallack on piano and Roger Brocklebank on drums; and The Henley Douglas Group with Iltis, Walker and rotating guitarists, O’Neal or Fedele.
“(The Henley Douglas Group) is a lot of fun, playing our arrangements of jazz standards and funk covers,” he said.
Two musicians – the aforementioned McGhie and Reardon, now in their early 20s – started playing with Douglas when they were in their early teens.
He said he’s willing to share the stage with novices, if they have talent and initiative.
“I am always open to younger players making their way to the music. It’s the way that it happened for me moving to Boston area 30 years ago,” said Douglas, a California native. “It takes a lot for a young player to come out, listen to the music then get the nerve to ask to sit in with the band. …You want to always pass this music along to the next generation,”