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 I can assure listeners the concept is fresh and true to the source.
At the Blue Note, the band paid a fitting and fiery tribute to jazz icon Horace Silver, whose greatest hits dominated the repertoire. That said, the band made each and every tune, its own and was full of surprises.
The band opened with Cape Verdean Blues, a tune Silver composed for his father, John Tavares Silva, who was born in Cape Verde. Its lively Latin rhythms and calypso melodies conjured up visions of the islands and heralded the shape of the evening to come.
Herwig is an engaging speaker. Between tunes, he shared Horace Silver anecdotes with the audience and described him as a “funkster” and a “founding father of Soul Jazz.”
On a more poignant note, Herwig mentioned the fact that he had the honor of sharing the stage with Silver during his last performance at the Blue Note.
Silver’s Serenade is favorite, however, I mostly associate it with The Bronx Horns, who did an incredible job of exploring Silver’s “Latin Side” in 1998 with The Silver in the Bronx Horns.
The tune, Filthy Mc Nasty is indicative of Silver’s down and dirty side, the rhythms are raucous, danceable and fun. Also, a perfect vehicle for the group, who obviously enjoyed playing the tune as much as the audience.
Silver composed Nica’s Dream for the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a staunch patron of bebop and a close, friend to Silver, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk among others. Over the years, the tune has been covered but the band gave it a whole new outlook.
The performance featured two “secret weapons,” pianists Bill O’ Connell – who performed during the first half – and the dynamic Michel Camilo. Their styles are a study in contrasts but it was a rare treat to see the two share the stage.
Anyone who has seen Michel Camilo perform knows that he is a force of nature. He proved as much when he sat in with the band for God’s of the Yoruba, a 3-part suite that Silver composed and dedicated to “the Africans and their spiritual evolution.” The powerful arrangement and the intense exchange between the players and Camilo caused a musical explosion and seismic shift that lifted the room off its access.
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. Also, those who is not familiar with Silver’s music left the room with a better understanding of why his legacy is so enduring.
Congratulations to the Latin Side All-Stars, seasoned musicians and masters of their craft: Pianists Bill O’ Connell and Michel Camilo, reed player Craig Handy, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen, and percussionist Richie Flores.
Photo: TOMAS PEÑA