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Henry Acker, Jazz Guitar Prodigy



Henry Acker, a very special young guitarist, introduced by Frank Vignola.

“I first met Henry Acker when he was 8. He was sitting in the front seats with his family at the Regattabar in Boston. I asked him if he played and if he wanted to sit in. He grabbed Vinny’s guitar and played Nuages to a standing ovation and many tears were flowing. It was a special moment. What a talent. He is on his way to being one of the greats. The future of jazz guitar is in good hands.” Frank Vignola

The story of Henry Acker begins at a rehearsal of his father Victor’s jazz trio. The trio had consented to play an evening of French Gypsy jazz at the French Cultural Center in Boston. During the run up to this show, Victor and 8 year old Henry would watch countless videos of Bireli Lagrene and The Rosenberg Trio for research. Henry was fascinated by the technical brilliance and playful humor of their performances. Henry was always present at his father’s rehearsals – listening, watching. At the conclusion of this particular rehearsal, Henry got up, strolled over to one of the guitars and played a very advanced run on it as if he had been playing for years. He had not. Everyone in the room gasped. It was as if a light switch went on in his head. That was the beginning.

Top Feature Photo: Jimmy Bruno, Henry Acker, Frank Vignola  Birdland NYC photo by Erin Acker

Grant Flick, Vinny Raniolo, Henry Acker, Julian Lage, Andreas Oberg  Capitol Theater Salt Lake City, UT
Grant Flick, Vinny Raniolo, Henry Acker, Julian Lage, Andreas Oberg  Capitol Theater Salt Lake City, UT – Photo by Ryan Thorell

A year later, Henry accompanied his dad to Boston’s premier jazz club, The Regatta Bar to see the masterful jazz guitarist Frank Vignola.

They sat right in front of Frank in the audience. At one point during the show, Frank was detailing what the next medley of tunes that he was going to play. Songs he played with Les Paul. When he mentioned Django’s “Nuages” Victor gave Henry a “low five” under the table as it was one of Henry’s favorites.  Frank saw this and stopped speaking. He looked down at Henry and for some unknown reason asked him “Do you play?”.  Henry replied, “Yes, I play that song!”  Vignola got him a chair told him to “Get up here!” 9 year old Henry took Vinny Raniolo’s guitar and he and Frank played a chorus of “Nuages” to everyone’s astonishment.  The house erupted in wild cheering.  After the show several audience members thought that Henry was a “plant” in the audience and followed Frank from show to show.  Eventually Frank took Henry on as a student and continues to study with him to this day.

Henry’s abilities soon became undeniable and with his father on guitar and his uncle Dana Acker on double bass, they began gigging.  They were getting great gigs around Boston right out of the gate, playing at both Harvard and MIT. Frank Vignola would call from time to time to have Henry play and put him on the bill in Salt Lake City with Julian Lage, Andreas Oberg, Olli Soikkeli, Vinny Raniolo and Nicki Parrot.

Henry Acker  Boston, MA
Henry Acker  Boston, MA – Photo by Jennifer Berglund

Henry began winning DownBeat magazine student awards (3) for jazz guitar soloist and got the call one day to accept The Saga Guitar Award for excellence in Gypsy Jazz music along with a slot on the bill at DjangoFest North West, the largest Django Jazz festival in the U.S. Other festivals soon followed including the biggest Gypsy Jazz fest in the world which is The Django Reinhardt Festival in Fountainbleu France.

Henry Acker, Dana Acker, Victor Acker  Provincetown Jazz Festival Provincetown, MA
Henry Acker, Dana Acker, Victor Acker  Provincetown Jazz Festival Provincetown, MA – Photo by Ray Drueke

Henry released his first CD “14” produced by Frank Vignola in 2018.  Now 15 years old, he has just wrapped the year with gigs in NYC at The Blue Note with Stephane Wrembel and Birdland with Frank Vignola, Jimmy Bruno and Vic Juris.  He begins 2020 opening up for, none other than, Bireli Lagrene at the annual Django’s Birthday Celebration at The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, CA.

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