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Live at the Blue Note: Conrad Herwig

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Conrad Herwig

Conrad Herwig and the Latin Side All-Stars Pay Tribute to Horace Silver

Conrad Herwig is no stranger to reimagining the work of seminal jazz musicians and showcasing their “Latin side.” In 1998, he released The Latin Side of John Coltrane to wide acclaim. Over the years he has paid tribute to Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson.

On the surface, the concept sounds formulaic but after seeing the band live I can assure the listener that the concept is fresh and true to the source.

Horace SilverAt the Blue Note, the band paid a fitting and fiery tribute to jazz icon Horace Silver. The vast majority of the repertoire consisted of Silver’s Greatest Hits, but the band made each and every tune their own, and included surprises along the way.

The band opened with their interpretation of “Cape Verdean Blues,” a tune Silver composed for his father, John Tavares Silva, who was born in Cape Verde. The tune’s lively Latin rhythms and calypso melodies conjured up visions of the islands and heralded the shape of things to come.

Herwig is nothing if not an engaging speaker. Between tunes, he shared Silver anecdotes with the audience and referred to him as a “funkster” and a founding father of Soul Jazz, which was popular from the mid to late 60s.

On a more poignant note, Herwig mentioned the fact that he was honored to have shared the stage with Silver during his last performance at the Blue Note.

“Silver’s Serenade” is one of my personal favorites, however I associate the tune with The Bronx Horns, who did an incredible job of exploring Silver’s “Latin Side” in 1998 with The Silver in the Bronx Horns (Timeless Records).

The tune, “Filthy Mc Nasty” is indicative of Silver’s “down and dirty” side, the rhythms are raucous, danceable, fun and a perfect vehicle for the band, who obviously enjoyed playing the tune as much as the audience enjoyed hearing it.

Silver composed “Nica’s Dream” for the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a staunch patron of bebop and a close, personal friend to Silver, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk among others. Over the years, the tune has been covered to death but the band gave it a whole new outlook.

Bill OConnellThe performance featured two “secret weapons,” pianists Bill O’ Connell – who performed during the first-half – and the dynamic Michel Camilo who performed during the second-half. Their styles are a study in contrasts. Nevertheless, it was a treat to see O’ Connell and Camilo on the same stage.

Anyone who has seen Michel Camilo perform is aware of the fact that he is nothing if not a force of nature and he proved as much when he sat in with the band for “God’s of the Yoruba Pt. 1,” which is one of the songs of a 3-part suite that Silver composed and dedicated to “the Africans and their spiritual evolution.”

Michel CamiloThe powerful arrangement and the intense exchange between the players and Camilo caused a seismic shift, a musical explosion that washed over the audience and lifted the room off its axis. Camilo’s lightning fast hands were the icing on the cake.

Silver’s most popular tune, “Song For My Father” took the vibe down a notch but before the audience could catch their breath, the band countered with “Nutville,” a swinging and upbeat tune that left everyone wanting more.

In all, it was a heartfelt and revealing tribute. Anyone who was not familiar with Silver’s music going in left the room with a better understanding of why Silver’s legacy is so enduring.

Congratulations to the Latin Side All-Stars, all seasoned musicians and masters of their craft: Pianists Bill O’ Connell and Michel Camilo, reed player Craig Handy, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, bassist Rubén Rodríguez, drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Richie Flores.

The event was recorded for posterity and is due to be released sometime in 2015. Suffice it to say, the recording engineer had his or her work cutout out for them. Capturing the music is one thing. Capturing the energy in the room and the smiles on people’s faces as they filed out of the room is something else.

Photo of Conrad Herwig by Tomas Peña

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

New York Report

“Si Va’ Llover” and the Advent of Música Artesanal

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Henry Cole

Henry Cole & Villa Locura release a new song featuring Alex López ‘El Callejero’ – “Si Va’ Llover” – and a new form of making and sharing music.

Alex López and Henry Cole met in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico sometime around 1992 when Henry attended the Manuel A. Barretto School.

Two images of Alex have remained forged in Henry’s memory. One is of Alex hanging out with Henry’s oldest sister, Tidzia Cole, and her friends in front of his grandmother Angelina Simon’s house on Calle Estación. The other is of Alex watching him from a little store next to the Cundo Rovira Pharmacy, where they sold “icys” (snow cones) and “empanadillas” (meat pies). Henry sensed that Alex was letting him know with his eyes that he was looking after him.

Henry Cole and Alex López
Henry Cole and Alex López

In 2006, the two met again in New York City during a Bomplenazo in which Henry participated as a guest of Los Pleneros de 21. Alex was part of the group Cocolay y sus Pleneros. As soon as they discovered they’re both musicians, they knew they wanted to collaborate. Whenever they met up, they talked about doing something together.

The opportunity arose in 2019. Henry was to appear with this group, Villa Locura, in Mayagüez for the first time, and he invited Alex to join them. He also asked Alex if he had a song that he’d like to adapt for Villa Locura. Alex sent him “Si Va’Llover.” Henry listened to several versions of the song and created a new arrangement within a couple of hours. And then, the gig in Mayaguez was canceled.

Henry performed “Si Va’Llover” in Santurce last December (2019) and although Alex didn’t sing with him, it was clear that people loved the song.

In 2020, Henry decided to record the arrangement of “Si Va’Llover,” this time with the participation of Alex López and a dream band. This is the result!

About The Process

The recording of the song entailed two experiments. The first was for Henry to see how his music would turn out with Villa Locura, his band made up of local Puerto Rican musicians, with the exception of keyboardist Jason Lindner.

The second experiment was to explore the legendary AQ30 Studios in Bayamón, which during the 1990s Merengue era recorded many greatest hits. Perhaps the most famous was, Elvis Crespo’s megahit “Suavemente.”

Henry Cole at AQ30 Studios in Bayamón, Puerto Rico
Henry Cole at AQ30 Studios in Bayamón, Puerto Rico

Discussing the process, Henry says: There’s a lot of analog equipment from that era that wasn’t being used because most of the work now is done with Pro Tools. I wanted to get the gears cranking again on the machine that had been so successful.

I started listening to some of the albums that were recorded there to relate the space to the music. I called trumpeter Luis Aquino and asked him how they recorded and what kind of equipment they used. Every time I saw the founder and recording engineer, Ricardo Marty I asked him a thousand questions and slowly I gathered fascinating information about the use and the history of the space.

Through these experiments I got a sense of what it would be like to record my next album in Puerto Rico.

At one point I felt that the equipment and the space spoke to me and welcomed me. This was confirmed in the takes that we recorded. Especially when I saw how the artists shone as their parts were added, and how easy it was done. It took Alex only one and a half takes to record his vocals. ‘I put on my headphones and went on a trip. I felt everything flow at once,’ he told me.

We only had one rule in the studio: no plugin’s (signal processor, equalizer, or compressor). The sound had to come from the subject to the analog machines without “filtering.”

About The Art

The artwork was inspired by the Portfolio de Plena series, a set of prints created by the Puerto Rican painter, printmaker, calligrapher, Lorenzo Homar, and painter and the draftsman, graphic artist, muralist, and illustrator Rafael Tufino, who celebrated Afro-Puerto Rican music in the 1950s.

Henry Cole - Si va a llover que llueva

Also, Henry called the painter, Martin Garcia Rivera, who is very familiar with Homar and Tufino’s works, and respects the Puerto Rican culture.

“Martin’s process was an incredible learning experience for me. In the middle of the pandemic he sent me photos and meditations about his process for creating the piece, a process called Intaglio, using Punta Seca. One day Martin called me and I heard the joy in his voice, and knew that he had succeeded. That call lasted about three hours. We talked a lot about the painter, Francisco Oller, Puerto Rico, our culture, and Martin’s story.”

“The press is manual, it’s like traveling back in time to a hundred, two hundred, even five hundred years ago. The past is the present with different actors and all that today has to offer,” says Martin Garcia Rivera.

La Música Artesanal is Born

Once the “master” was finished, Henry shared it with some people in the music industry, garnering the usual results. Some said, “Wow, this amazing, it’ll stick.” And others said, “We don’t know if it belongs on a playlist, it’s too long, it’s too instrumental, it’s too jazzy, it’s regional, people consume a more urban sound.”

The story was the same when presented “El Diablo” with Tito Allen and “Caminando” with Tego Calderón.

Henry was aware that even if there were some interest, he would have to give away his song for streaming, which generates less than a penny per play. And with a schedule of canceled concerts for the rest of the year, he realized he wouldn’t be able to continue in that direction, nor could he expect the industry to dictate what he should do with his music.

So Henry decided to take inspiration from the figure of the artisan, using this analogy: Craftspeople make their handiwork —whether it be jewelry, or furniture, or carved nativity scenes— but they would never expect to make a living by simply giving it away as if it were a free sample. This would leave the artisan with no profit to buy food or materials.

For example, there’s craft beer, craft coffee, craft jewelry. A craft beer is more expensive than a regular beer. Why? Because of the quality of the ingredients, the process by which it’s made, the attention to detail.

Henry developed the idea of launching his own platform to sell his art in conjunction with visual designer Abdiel Flores.

La Música Artesanal also seeks to bring together artists who share this same thinking and passion for their crafts. In this way, they’ll form a Mercado of craft musicians.

“And so,” says Henry, “I offer you here my Música Artesanal, created with the best musicians, artists, engineers, machines, and processes.”

“The ‘mission,’ was to create an aggressive, punchy, in your face, groovy, virtuosic sound. Also, I wanted to present my vision of New Plena and send a message to the other Plena, Bomba, and Salsa Bands in Puerto Rico, that, ‘This is 2020 and Henry Cole and Villa Locura is here!’ Aside from the lyrics, I composed all the parts. I brought in the bassist Ricky Rodriguez, who gave me the aggressive, nasty bass lines I was seeking. This virtuoso type of bass playing happens in Merengue but rarely in Plena. Also, there is Trap (a sub-genre of hip-hop ) played by musicians, not computers. ” — Henry Cole

LYRICS

Well, my people
Our Plena
Our Roots
Our Culture
If It’s Going to Rain, Let it Rain
Nothing Will Stop My Plena!

HENRY COLE AND VILLA LOCURA’S DYNAMIC SOUND AND ALEX LOPEZ’S POWERFUL LYRICS TAKE PLENA INTO THE 21ST CENTURY!

CREDITS

Henry Cole – Music, Drums
Alex López – Lyrics, Vocals
Martin Rivera Garcia – Art
Michael Brauer – Mixing Engineer
Emanuel Santamaria – Punteador
Axel Rodriguez – Guiro
Jason Lindner – Keyboards
Piro Rodriguez – Trumpet
Jahaziel Garcia – Trumpet
Jonathan Acevedo – Tenor Sax
Victor Maldonado – Baritone Sax
Javi Perez – Guitar
Giovanni De La Rosa – Guitar
Ricky Rodriguez – Bass
Jay Laboy – Coro
Antoinette Rodriguez – Coro
Sebastian Otero – Coro
Glorimar Nogueras – Coro
Recording & Editing
Giovanni De La Rosa
Wendell Sanders
Luis Rodriguez
Rubén Morales
Matt Burr
Hector Espinoza
Fernando Reyes
Idania Valencia – Mastering
Abdie Flores – Cover
José Diaz – Video
Joealis Filippetti – Promotional Voice Over

Tomas Peña – Promo, Editor

Artist Website/Source: henrycolemusic.com
La Música Artesanal: lamusicaartesanal.com

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