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Conrad Herwig: New York City, NY, July 25, 2012

Emilie Pons By

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Conrad Herwig Quintet
The Blue Note
New York, NY
July 25, 2012

During the last week of July, 2012, at New York City's Blue Note club, trombonist Conrad Herwig performed with his quintet, also featuring trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, pianist Bill O'Connell, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen and conguero/percussionist Richie Flores. Herwig paid tribute to the sophisticated tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, who passed in 2001.

Henderson was one of Herwig's heroes, mentors and close friends. Herwig's Blue Note shows were advertised as "The Latin Side of Joe Henderson." With Flores onboard, it was difficult not to put on a rhythmically enthralling show, Latin style.

This "Latin Side" touch has become a trademark for Herwig; indeed, the trombonist has been reinventing landmark albums by "Latinizing" them. His "Latin Side" recordings include The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock (2010), The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter (2008), Sketches of Spain y Mas (2006), Another Kind of Blue (2004), and The Latin Side of John Coltrane (1996), all on the HalfNote label.

Herwig is known for his collaborations with trumpeters Miles Davis and Tom Harrell, saxophonist Joe Henderson, and Joe Lovano (who performed with his quintet over the weekend)), pianist Eddie Palmieri, timbale player Tito Puente, and singer Frank Sinatra. He has also performed with singer Cab Calloway and drummers Buddy Rich and Mel Lewis.

Catching the second set on Wednesday evening, July 25, the band was getting ready to record on the weekend. Herwig thus mentioned that they were playing a longer set than usual: a wonderful idea. "We are rehearsing for record day," the trombonist explained, and the audience forgave him completely.

Herwig also talked about his friend, trumpeter/flugelhornist Clark Terry, who is now 92 years old and with whom the trombonist has performed. He quoted Terry, saying, "It's not a jazz show if you don't play a blues." For that very reason, Herwig also decided to play one of Joe Henderson's blues.

The solos from each instrumentalist were impressive, as well as the quality and originality of each tune. The band played "Afrocentric," a tune from Henderson's Power to the People (Milestone, 1969), which featured bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Jack DeJohnette and trumpeter Mike Lawrence. "We hope you like this version," Herwig declared.

Herwig described Henderson as a brilliant and most sweet man, who spoke Spanish, Japanese, German and Russian. As Herwig explained, Henderson "was a genius."

The show was not only a great "rehearsal" for the musicians, who created a special intimate atmosphere onstage—using the Blue Note as a sort of recording studio—but it was also moving. While paying tribute to Henderson, Herwig not only reclaimed a daunting musical tradition by honoring the spirit of the late saxophonist, but he also celebrated friendship—and, in this case, a special kind of friendship: a musical one.

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