Jazz CD Reviews

Conrad Herwig, trombone – The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock with Eddie Palmieri & Randy Brecker – Half Note Records

Herbie Hancock’s compositions never sounded so good.

Published on February 23, 2011

Conrad Herwig, trombone – The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock with Eddie Palmieri & Randy Brecker – Half Note Records

Conrad Herwig, trombone – The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock with Eddie Palmieri & Randy Brecker – Half Note Records 64:14 ****:

There never has been any question about the musical virtuosity of Herbie Hancock .Whether as a pianist, composer, or arranger; he has been a force in jazz music. Now the trombonist Conrad Herwig has embarked on an album that features Hancock’s compositions that have or can be played with a Latin flavour.

Recorded live at The Blue Note in New York City in August 2008, Herwig has surrounded himself with an all-star group of musicians who understand the Latin idiom, and have a respect for the musical intentions of the composer. While Herwig had an overabundance of Hancock compositions from which to chose, his preference was for the earlier periods in Hancock’s career.  Starting off with the lengthy “Oliloqui Valley” which features Eddie Palmieri’s piano in a classic Afro-Caribbean approach, and leading into “One Finger Snap” an up-tempo blazer which lets Herwig shine along with trumpeter Mike Rodriguez and percussionist Pedro Martinez.

While all the cuts on the album are done with sympathy and integrity, there are some highlights that are worthy of singular mention. On “The Sorcerer” there are several terrific spontaneous exchanges between Herwig’s trombone and Randy Brecker’s trumpet that give it a jam feel. The languid Latin tempo offered on “Maiden Voyage” provides flutist Craig Handy an occasion to offer a wonderful lyricism to the composition. A couple of Hancock’s funky vamps close out the album starting with “Cantaloupe Island”. In this Herwig arrangement, there is an abundance of solo space allowing Brecker, Herwig and especially Palmieri a chance to deliver a compelling expressiveness to the tune. In 1963, the Cuban conguero Mongo Santamaria popularized “Watermelon Man” to such an extent that this rendition was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.This new audacious arrangement by Herwig and Bill O’Connell make it a tour de force for the band through the tradeoffs by the horns.

Conrad Herwig seems to have found his groove by offering Latin versions of the music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, each of which has garnered a Grammy nomination. This effort is no less worthy of this recognition.

TrackList: Oliloqui Valley; One Finger Snap; Butterfly; The Sorcerer; Actual Proof; Maiden Voyage; Cantaloupe Island; Watermelon Man

– Pierre Giroux




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