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. Not surprisingly, the band made each and tune, its own and for good measure, included surprises.
The band opened with Cape Verdean Blues, a tune Silver composed for his father, John Tavares Silva, who hailed from Cape Verde. Its lively Latin rhythms and calypso melodies conjured up visions of the islands and heralded the shape of things to come.
Herwig is an engaging speaker. Also, having played with Silver at his last performance at the Blue Note, he knows of what he speaks. Between tunes, he shared Horace Silver anecdotes and affectionately described him as a “funkster” and “founding father of Soul Jazz.”
Silver’s Serenade is another classic. Also, it’s a tune I associate with the Bronx Horns, who explored Silver’s Latin Side in 1998 with the album, The Silver in the Bronx Horns.
The tune, Filthy Mc Nasty is indicative of Silver’s funkier side. The rhythms are raucous, danceable, and fun. Also, the tune is a perfect vehicle for the group, who enjoyed playing the tune as much as the audience enjoyed listening.
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 to death but the band breathed new life into it.
The performance featured two “secret weapons,” pianists Bill O’ Connell – who performed the first half – and Michel Camilo. Their styles are a study in contrast and it was a rare treat to see them share the stage.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the pianist, Michel Camilo perform knows 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 seismic shift that nearly lifted the room off its axis.
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 are 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