Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars at The Django came out swinging with John Coltrane’s Blue Train! We were later to hear Coltrane’s Mr. PC and much more. The sounds were fresh and electrifying.
Pathos of Coltrane
This was classic, expressive jazz enriched by the syncopation, excitement, and complexity of Latin rhythm with the pathos of Coltrane and a dash of the rhythmic drive of Bebop. After the band played the head, solos didn’t just follow the tune’s melody, a technique common with jazz players. Solos inhabited the structure of bar lines, chords, and powerful rhythms in personal contexts. The complex relationships between improvised melodies, structures, and rhythm resulted in rich, abstract, and contextual meanings for listeners. It was fantastic!
John Coltrane and Eddie Palmieri
How can this happen? Herwig gave us a clue when he noted that John Coltrane and Eddie Palmieri inspired and influenced his work. Before I move along, one must understand that such creativity and sounds can only happen with a band of world-class musicians with sublime artistry, experience, and musical associations. That band is Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars.
Human Sound of Their Instruments
Coltrane distinguished himself early in hard bop and came to be known for free jazz and the use of modes. He strove for inner peace and famously stated, “Any way you can enjoy music, you should.” He reminded players to strive to reach into the human sound of their instruments. His goal was to express the warmth of the human voice and for musicians to play what they hear in a piece. In this recording of Coltrane performing Blue Train, the rhythm section plays straight 4s while Coltrane lights up his tenor sax.
The Evolution of Salsa Music
Palmieri created a freeform sound. An innovator akin to Herwig, he blended jazz piano with musical styles like salsa, funk, soul, and jazz. Palmieri also invented the trombanga sound by replacing violins with trombones. His unique percussive piano style pushed the evolution of salsa music in New York City. In Oyelo Que Te Conviene, note the Latin rhythms as Eddie Palmieri band leads his Salsa Orchestra.
Montuno, Tumbao, and Clave
For those less familiar with the exciting world of Latin beats, here are the Afro-Cuban Bass Tumbao, Son Montuno, and a Tumbao with 2-3 Clave beat. Here’s a combination of piano Montuno with Tumbao Bass and a 2-3 Clave beat. The Bass plays patterns offset from downbeats as the Clave repeats a steady pattern. Most of the world stands to dance when they hear this!
Perfect Mix of Styles
With a perfect mix of styles crafted by Herwig, we heard and saw tonight a band of world-class musicians performing classic jazz within the framework and fire of Latin rhythms. On top of that was Herwig’s addition of the drive and power of Congas by Mauricia Herrera.
Conrad Herwig’s version of Blue Train is a smooth, sophisticated amalgam of classic jazz with the complexity of Latin rhythms. Through this, Herwig achieves a Coltrane maxim, the innate balance among rhythm, harmony, and melodic line.
This evening’s solos were inventive, powerful, and introspective. The musicians were sharply attuned to each other and subtly communicated supportive musical nuances.
Virtuosic Lightning Passages
Pianist Bill O’Connell sometimes employed virtuosic, lightning passages in modal structures accompanied by ubiquitous chromatic, ascending, and descending sharp 9’s built on the third of the chord. For example, in a D chord, the left hand simultaneously plays F#, C, and F natural.
This voicing highlights the deliciously devilish tritone under the perfect fourth interval. O’Connell sometimes played broad triplet chordal flourishes over the steady duple Latin beat of the percussion and bass. These flashes of hemiola and poly rhythms created marvelous buoyance and swirling amorphic tensions.
This sophistication of these sounds provided sonic context for soloists and the rock-solid rhythm section.
Smooth, Sophisticated Offerings
Herwig’s solo work was rhythmic, varied, and virtuosic. He elegantly developed his solos through Coltrane’s musical structures, displaying smooth, sophisticated offerings. His tone was deep, rich, flexible, and agile, cascading seamlessly across musical structures. His trombone sound filled the room with echoes of Coltrane’s jazz masterpieces, stirring emotions and tapping into the essence of the music. Herwig delivered an unforgettable performance, leaving listeners in awe.
The Tenor Saxophone
Craig Handy played the tenor saxophone beautifully, showcasing his artistry, Coltrane’s spirit, and more. As he explored intricate improvisations, his deep, rich tones filled the room, capturing the spirit of the music. With effortless fingers and soaring intones, listeners were swept away on a timeless journey. He also played flute and Latin percussion, embodying the essence of jazz and transporting us to a world of grooves.
Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Alex Norris used the trumpet and flugelhorn to mix tone colors. He expressed harmonious sounds that resonated deeply with the listener’s emotions. His fingers danced across the valves gracefully and precisely while his breath control pushed each note to its richest potential. His music swelled and built, reaching incredible heights before descending to peaceful environs. Norris’s skill and passion for Coltrane’s music shined through in every note, invigorating the senses and stirring the soul.
Exuberant and Contagious
The percussion team of Adam Cruz and Mauricio Herrera provided explosive and rhythmic fusions of jazz and Latin music. Their techniques were precise, with intricate patterns on the snare, cymbals, and tom-toms, while the conga player kept a steady groove with fiery improvisations in between.
The interplay between the two was thrilling as they built up the band’s intensity and energy through their dynamic interactions. Cruz and Herrera delivered with accuracy and flair, adding complexity to harmonies and intricate melodies. The sounds were exuberant and contagious, inviting listeners to move and react to the vibrant beats.
Depth and Intensity
Bassist Luques Curtis was inexhaustible! His strength and verve were apparent as he drove the music forward, creating lush harmonic textures and interweaving intricate solos. His technique was impeccable, effortlessly navigating complex chord changes and syncopated rhythms. His tone was rich and full-bodied, with a warm, earthy quality that added depth and intensity to the music. Curtis elevated the music to new heights, captivating the audiences with his passionate and virtuosic role in the rhythm section and ensemble.
Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars
Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars perform Tuesday nights at The Django through December 26. Come by for great music, food, and drink in the Django room.
Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars will be playing at The Django through December 26.