Carlos Henriquez may not be the first to (rightfully) pay tribute to Dizzy Gillespie nor will he be the last. But his is a remarkable one that reminds us lest we forget that Dizzy Gillespie was the first – or among the vanguard of Jazz musicians – who not only shone the proverbial light on Afro-Cuban rhythmic structures, but also integrated it into many of his compositions that came to be called Cubop. In fact Dizzy has noted in a now-famous interview captured on film of how the great rumbero Chano Pozo sang the bass-line melody of what came to be called “Manteca” to Dizzy as the latter feverishly wrote it down. Anecdotal evidence apart, much of Dizzy’s music of a certain period included some of the legendary trumpeter’s most iconic clave-laced compositions that form an important chapter in his overall oeuvre.
Those works are not the only ones included on this disc Dizzy con Clave, but Mr Henriquez returns the favour to one of the greatest ever musicians in Jazz by devoting a whole programme to Cubop music with masterfully crafted arrangements of Dizzy’s music all of which is performed here by as good an ensemble that one can remember in a long time. And the reading of these classic Dizzy charts, re-invented in the Afro-Cuban idioms is spectacular not the least because each of these young players here bring particularly strong individual voices to this music. The result is a band that echoes the vividness that once reverberated in auditoria where the classic bands of Machito, Mario Bauzá, Tito Puente, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, and Xavier Cougat – among others – played.
Getting perfectly into character are the two trumpeters – Michael Rodriguez and Terrel Stafford – who trade places frequently during viscerally exciting soli, two of which truly stand out on “Groovin’ High” and “Tin Tin Deo”. The latter became a classic at the hands of Dizzy during one of his most iconic concerts Live at the Royal Albert Hall with his United Nation Orchestra that featured Claudio Roditi and Arturo Sandoval – besides The Master himself, of course. The singular trombone spot is occupied by Marshall Gilkes who is not as widely-known as he should be. He is one of the magnificent soloists on one of Dizzy’s most famous (and arguably most recorded) work “Con Alma”, a missive to play – as the title suggests – “With Soul”; something that Mr Gilkes takes to heart as do both trumpeters and the inimitable pianist Manuel Valera, but also the prodigiously-gifted Melissa Aldana, a tenor saxophonist who has lit a fire under every recording that she has made so far.
Naturally the complexities and vivid colours of Afro-Cuban idioms could never be brought to life without a rhythm section that always ignites and plays in the blue-hot part of the music’s flame. That is not only Mr Valera, but also the ubiquitous (these days at least) drummer Obed Calvaire and Anthony Almonte who drives the vocals with his chants and shouts and smoky vocals over his conga playing that is intense; each chop and slap of hands on the congas a vibrant invitation to dance. All of the musicians are led from the front by Carlos Henriquez who is one of a new generation of contrabassists helping power this great music.
Mr Henriquez grace the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis and it was the bassist who led that orchestra on a highly successful visit to Cuba, which produced a marvellous recording, Live in Cuba (2015), an inaugural product of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Blue Engine Records, recorded during a week-long residency at the Mella Theater in Havana, in October 2010. Mr Henriquez also released his first solo outing, The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine, 2015), a metaphor that came to stand for a rubric formed by his Puerto Rican roots, his Afro-Caribbean heritage and Jazz (or Latin-Jazz) tree that grew from there. With Dizzy con Clave Mr Henriquez seems to suggest a closing of the proverbial idiomatic circle that has resulted; but not for long, we certainly hope…
Track list – 1: A Night in Tunisia; 2: Groovin’ High; 3: Bebop; 4: Guarachi Guaro; 5: Con Alma; 6: Manteca; 7: Kush; 8: Tin Tin Deo; 9: Trinidad, Hello
Personnel – Carlos Henriquez: bass, coro and leader; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet and coro; Terrel Stafford: trumpet; Melissa Aldana: tenor saxophone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone and coro; Manuel Valera: piano; Anthony Almonte: conga and vocals; Obed Calvaire: drums
Released – 2018
Label – Rodbros Music (1002)