Henry Butler, the famed New Orleans R&B and jazz pianist who lived in Boulder for a spell following Hurricane Katrina, died Monday at the age of 68, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Butler died in New York of end-stage cancer, his agent told the newspaper.

"He really fought hard," manager Art Edelstein told the Times-Picayune. "He's really been active, but his body just gave out."

Leo Nocentelli, guitarist for The Meters, told the New Orleans Advocate that "there was nobody like" Butler.

"He was an innovator," Nocentelli told the Advocate. "There are a lot of keyboard players in the world, but only one Henry Butler. When you heard him, it was him and nobody else. It astounded me how a blind person could read music with Braille as prolifically as anybody who could see."

In 2005, Butler — like so many people in New Orleans — fled his home in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. The floodwaters destroyed his piano and wiped away his recording studio, computers and everything on the first floor of his home.

He initially kept on the road, playing concerts around the country, before landing in Boulder.


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Butler told the Daily Camera in 2010 that he came to Colorado after receiving an e-mail invitation from percussionist Scott Messersmith, a New Orleans native who had, years earlier, come to Boulder to play with The Motet.

"He knew my music and he thought I could add to the cultural landscape" in Boulder, Butler told the Camera.

The since-razed Boulder Outlook Hotel and Suites put Butler up for a few weeks while others helped furnish an apartment for him. During his time in Boulder, he played the Fox Theatre and at Twenty Ninth Street, and appeared at the University of Colorado's annual Conference on World Affairs.

Butler ultimately moved to Denver, and then split his time between the Mile High City and New York City. He told the Camera in 2010 he thought he might eventually return to New Orleans.

"Now is not the right time for me," Butler said. "Who knows? In five or 10 years, I may want to go back."

It's not clear whether he ever moved back; the Times-Picayune reported he lived in Colorado and then New York following Katrina, and that he had been based in Brooklyn for at least the last five years.

"As I talk to survivors of Katrina, I'm reminded of a few things," Butler told the Camera eight years ago. "One of the most important things is that hardly any of us feel that we have fully recovered. We're still working on it emotionally."