New York jazz trombonist Conrad Herwig has recorded 19 albums as a leader. His newest CD release is “The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter” on Half Note Records, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009. This is the follow-up project to the 2005 Grammy-nominated CD, “Another Kind of Blue: The Latin Side of Miles Davis”, and the 1998 Grammy-nominated CD, “The Latin Side of John Coltrane”. These exciting projects were recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City and feature special guests Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Valentin and Brian Lynch. His most recent solo recordings on the CrissCross label are “A Jones for Bones Tones”, “Obligation”, “Land of Shadow”, “Hieroglyphica”, “Unseen Universe”, “Osteology”, and “Heart of Darkness” which received 4 and 1/2 stars in DownBeat Magazine. He has also been voted #1 Jazz Trombonist (TDWR) in the 2002 Downbeat Jazz Critic’s Poll. Now in his album The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock featuring Craig Handy, Mike Rodriguez, Bill O’Connell, Ruben Rodriguez, Robby Ameen, Pedro Martinez, Eddie Palmieri and Randy Brecker, it contains 8 tracks of amazing performance.
The opening track Oliloqui Valley shows off the modern, modal piano beginning. In this track the motion has a variety of sound that blend together creating a musical texture that works together. A smooth, very refined trumpet solo sounds so effortless with a milky, rich tone. Then you hear the trumpet playing a tornado of virtuoso sound. You hear a full textured saxophone solo, then a stunning piano mastery of tonality. The intensity picks with some call and response interaction between the instruments.
A well defined opening theme with some suspense starts the third track, Butterfly. Sustained notes in the supporting instruments allow room for other musical activity while the piano joins in the motif that was heard at the beginning. The incredible control of tone comes from the bass clarinet solo that joins the musical portrait that’s created. Notes that move in much direction is played by the trumpet during his improvisation that projects well played tones into your ears. The bass supplies much support that the whole tune uses to keep producing an endless array of musical color. Towards the end, the opening theme is reinstated.
Chromatic movement of keyboard harmony along with the drums introduces us to the fourth track The Sorcerer. Then the combination of instruments build upon this opening. The horns play with a brilliant tone. A melodic fanfare delight is heard on the piano during an extended improvised solo. After the solo, the opening theme comes back that is the framework for this tune. You get a real salsa feel during the middle of this tune that’s amplified by the trumpet solo. During the trumpet solo, the drums and piano are really supplying the support for the solos. In the background you can hear the horns adding to this music extravaganza. Collective improvisation is fiery and electric.
In the seventh track Cantaloupe Island, a good steady motion is put in effect by the bass and piano. A rhythmic piano has an active role in the feel of this tune. Staccato notes in the trumpet solo are articulated with effectiveness. The scale runs of the improvised trumpet solo are unforced and dynamic. Extremely impressive virtuoso qualities are to be enjoyed in the trumpet solo as it makes music statements. In the trombone solo the timing of the improvisation is really singing with convincing tones. Blues notes are played in the piano solo along with a wide range of music vocabulary. The piano plays around with harmony and rhythm in unimaginable ways.
There is a lot to be listened to and enjoyed in this album. Conrad Herwig did a superb job in expressing the creative genius of Herbie Hancock while adding a Latin vibe that worked. The number of musicians sounded very good with one another. This proves that the Latin influence has worked well in jazz and it still continues to do so. The playing on this album is a skillful display of music talent and workmanship. Conrad Herwig is a very accomplished musician who has added a lot to jazz and will continue exploring the language of jazz.