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Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid

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Fellow bassists have long marveled at the way Carlos Henriquez attacks his strings. The South Bronx native’s lines are clean, crisp and to-the-point-jet fuel for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and other groups led by his mentor, Wynton Marsalis, and a long list of jazz and pop notables. So it’s no surprise that Henriquez’s woody, rich sound and propulsive grooves are at the center of his debut album as a leader.

Henriquez, son of a trombonist father and a mother who was a dancer, celebrates his family roots throughout, particularly on the title track, which opens the CD. His bouncy rhythmic figure enters first, with Michael Rodriguez’s mellow trumpet sounding the main theme, and the sonic palette expands to include pianist Robert Rodriguez (Michael’s brother, and partner in the Rodriguez Brothers band), Pedrito Martinez on batas, Bobby Allende on congas and drummer Ali Jackson, the bassist’s rhythm-section cohort in the Lincoln Center band. The multi-segmented piece eventually leads into a brief double-time feel and a return to the head.

Similarly tinted tunes follow. “Cuchifrito” makes use of harmonies by Rodriguez and tenor saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, and alternates Afro-Cuban with swing. Rubén Blades contributes exuberant vocals and the leader turns in a highly syncopated solo on “Descarga Entre Amigos,” a tune as joyful as its title suggests. Henriquez uses his bow to play the pretty melody of the ballad “Joshua’s Dream,” and another ballad, “Nilda,” benefits from the warm horns.

The album is nothing if not rangy, with a stately version of Ernesto Lecuona’s “Al Fin Te Vi” performed in duet with Michael Rodriguez, during which the bassist goes fully arco, showing off serious classical chops. Anyone surprised by the depth and breadth of Henriquez’s talents simply hasn’t been paying attention.

Originally Published