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Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave

Dan Bilawsky By

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In closing out the liner essay to this savory set recorded live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, bassist Carlos Henriquez succinctly summarizes one of many important points worth noting about the legendary honoree: "Dizzy Gillespie is and always will be the American bridge to Afro-Cuban music," he states. But it need be noted that he doesn't just say this; he also backs it up. Henriquez shows us this truth through his stellar arrangements for what can only be described as an uber-octet.

Delivering this celebration on stage at the opportune moment—in late 2017, as the Dizzy Gillespie Centennial was just getting underway—Henriquez took the opportunity to use the famed trumpeter-composer's work as both foundation and springboard. His takes on this material remain respectful and faithful to a point, embracing the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic touchstones that defined Gillespie's originals. But they also stretch that music in surprising ways, expanding on the originals and appending various points and forms to the structures with what one of Henriquez's musical forebearers—bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez—termed nuevo ritmo. In doing so Henriquez embraces Gillespie's own enthusiasm for extending art through cross-pollination. It's an idea that's only fitting. Were it not for that trailblazer's relationship with trumpeter Mario Bauza and conguero Chano Pozo, after all, this music would have never existed in the first place.

As the longtime bassist for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Henriquez could have simply tapped his colleagues in that band for this home turf happening. But his shrewd eye and ear for the right players took him elsewhere. Bringing tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, trombonist Marshall Gilkes, and trumpeters Michael Rodriguez and Terell Stafford in as the front line proved to be a masterstroke, as taste, range, weight, and agility are all accounted for in that line-up. And with a rhythm section that finds pianist Manuel Valera, conguero Anthony Almonte, and drummer Obed Calvaire joining Henriquez, all the bases are covered.

Everybody in this outfit works in service of the whole and understands their place within the percolating pieces. That said, it's absolutely impossible to escape the pull of many a solo here. Aldana's sly maneuvers on "A Night In Tunisia," Henriquez's fancy finger work on "Groovin' High," Almonte's vocal and conga conflagrations on "Bebop," Gilkes' melodious flow on "Con Alma," and numerous other breakaways all capture the imagination in different ways. And, of course, you have to give some to the trumpeters when nodding to one of that instrument's all-time greats. Both Rodriguez and Stafford fly high and proud whenever their turns arrive.

In using reverence and innovation as the primary pillars to support this music, Henriquez hits all the right marks. Dizzy Gillespie wouldn't have things any other way, so it's only right that present-day interpretations of his music are aligned with his being.

Track Listing: A Night in Tunisia; Groovin' High; Bebop; Guarachi Guaro; Con Alma; Manteca; Kush; Tin Tin Deo; Trinidad, Goodbye.

Personnel: Carlos Henriquez: bass, coro; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet, coro; Terell Stafford: trumpet; Melissa Aldana: tenor saxophone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone, coro; Manuel Valera: piano; Anthony Almonte: congas; Obed Calvaire: drums.

Title: Dizzy Con Clave | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: RodBros Music

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