Conrad Herwig/Brian Lynch: Que Viva Coltrane (2005)
In recent years, trumpeter Brian Lynch and trombonist Conrad Herwig were part of one of Eddie Palmieri's better late period ensembles, proving to be an incendiary addition to a high-octane ensemble dedicated to the fiery hybrid most folks refer to as salsa. It's perfectly logical then for the pair to team up for a recent project fashioning Latin jazz treatments of several John Coltrane classics. Wisely, they have chosen to bring on board a crew of musicians steeped in the tradition, with pianist Edsel Gomez and drummer Robby Ameen being particularly integral to the overall success of the music.
On the whole, Herwig and Lynch have chosen well, and each arrangement grooves with its own identity, still retaining the essence of the original. "Miles Mode is particularly ripe for the Latin treatment. Its long form melody extends over several bars with a percolating clave beat tailor made for expansive solos from the horn men and Gomez, not to mention some fiery exchanges by Lynch and Herwig towards the tune's conclusion.
A challenge taken at a swift jazz tempo, the rapid-fire changes of "Countdown pose an even riskier proposition when made to fit the Latin mold. Pay particular attention on this one to the way that drummer Ameen and conguero Richie Flores meld their contributions into one strong groove, with the electric bass of John Benitez anchoring the bottom end. A sign of our leading men's thorough understanding of the Latin music tradition, each piece seems perfectly suited to its new treatment. On "Grand Central, the three-horn front line fills out the melody with rich harmonies and a sound bigger than mere numbers would seem to suggest.
On the gentler side, "Wise One and "Central Park West waft along with supporting rhythms of a lighter nature. The disc concludes when all the stops are pulled out for "Locomotion, an early Trane opus of somewhat demanding structure that debuted on his legendary Blue Train. Ameen gets to trade phrases with the horns near the end, turning up the heat before a bacchanalian closing caps off a perfect meeting of the minds where Latin and jazz sensibilities merge to create a unified whole. The fact that Herwig and Lynch have made it sound so deceptively simple attests to the time the pair has spent studying and honing their skills within an idiom that has become almost second nature to them both.
Track Listing: Lonnie's Lament, Miles Mode, Wise One, Countdown, Central Park West, Grand Central, Straight Street, Locomotion
Personnel: Conrad Herwig (trombone), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Mario Rivera (sax and flute), Edsel Gomez (piano), John Benitez (bass), Robby Ameen (drums), Richie Flores (percussion)