The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter
Half Note Records
If you don’t recognize Conrad Herwig’s name, it may be because of where he’s from and what he does. But the Oklahoma native’s occupation—professor of jazz trombone, improvisation, and composition/arrangement at Rutgers University in New Jersey—gives a clue as to the primary reason. Most people don’t even remember that Tommy Dorsey played trombone, even if he’s arguably the best-known trombonist in jazz history (yet better known as a bandleader).
Herwig, 48, has worked with icons like Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Buddy Rich, plus averaged nearly an album per year during his 20-year career as a bandleader. He’s arranged classic jazz material with Latin themes for the past decade. His latest CD, The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, follows Grammy nominees The Latin Side of John Coltrane (1998) and Another Kind of Blue: The Latin Side of Miles Davis (2004).
For this live set at the Blue Note in New York City, Herwig assembled the ace Latin-jazz rhythm section of pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Pedro Martinez. Ameen and Martinez dazzle as accompanists and soloists on the pulsating opener “Ping Pong”; trumpeter Brian Lynch and baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber—two non-Latinos who also grasp the vernacular—shine on a relaxed “Tom Thumb.”
Perdomo plays so well on the stately “El Gaucho” and “This Is for Albert,” plus Lynch’s 6/8-timed rework of Shorter’s “Night Dreamer,” that it’s hard to imagine him being upstaged. But 71-year-old pianist and living Latin-jazz icon Eddie Palmieri adds some of his pioneering salsa spice to Lynch’s arrangement of “Masqualero,” as well as Herwig’s takes on two Shorter standards, “Adam’s Apple” and “Footprints.” Dig deeper, and Herwig’s Latin expertise isn’t so surprising: He also works with Palmieri and Paquito D’Rivera, and one of his musical degrees is in Afro-Caribbean ethnomusicology.