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Conrad Herwig – The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson featuring Joe Lovano – Half Note

Conrad Herwig – The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson featuring Joe Lovano – Half Note, 59:30 ****:

(Conrad Herwig – trombone; Joe Lovano – tenor saxophone; Ronnie Cuber – baritone saxophone; Alex Sipiagin – trumpet; Bill O’Connell – piano; Ruben Rodriguez – bass; Robby Ameen – drums; Richie Flores – percussion)

Conrad Herwig continues on his exploration of Latin music themes tied to well-known jazz artists such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, with this current release looking at the music composed by Joe Henderson.

Recorded live at the Blue Note in New York City with a band made up of cracker-jack musicians and featuring tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, the group dives into the Latin-framed construct with verve and propulsive sparkle. As for Joe Henderson, who died in 2001, he is described in Jazz, The Rough Guide in the following terms: “Henderson is one of the most gifted of the post-Coltrane saxophonists. He rapidly absorbed his main influences-Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman—finding his own voice and approach on the tenor sax.”

For those individuals who have both the time and interest, the web site joehenderson.jazzgiants.net has many of the compositions presented in this session available for listening, as originally recorded by Henderson. They are striking in their originality and interpretation by the composer, and offer a counterpoint to the interpretations offered here. “Recorda Me” and “Blue Bossa” are from Henderson’s debut album in 1963 entitled Page One. Both compositions became enshrined as jazz standards, with trumpeter Kenny Dorham as the composer of “Blue Bossa”. The versions of each tune presented here by Herwig and the band are expressively different, with the former encased in a mambo groove as baritone saxophone Ronnie Cuber leads the way with a solid bottom opening which Lovano’s tenor then picks up the mood. In the case of the latter tune, the rhythm is a mash-up of Latin styles which nevertheless pushes the arrangement forward with Herwig digging-in with a strong solo effort.

Joe Lovano is in superb form for “Mamacita” which was arranged by Conrad Herwig, and shows his breadth of understanding of the material, and is structured in such a way as to also allow trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and Herwig himself to indulge some fanciful solo efforts. “Black Narcissus” originally appeared on Henderson’s 1969 release Power To The People and featured Herbie Hancock on electric piano. Originally conceived in a waltz tempo, it has been completely retooled  here by Herwig and the band. Sipiagin’s trumpet and Herwig on trombone are front and centre in solo showcases which generate much audience appreciation. Not to be outdone, pianist and arranger Bill O’Connell acquits himself with aplomb. Conrad Herwig and the band have put together a thoughtful program, filled with sparkling ideas and a Latin vibe, that captures Joe Henderson’s musical ideas.

TrackList: Recorda Me; Mamacita; Afro-Centric; Black Narcissus; Blue Bossa; Inner Urge

—Pierre Giroux

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