Carlos Henriquez is the most important Latin Jazz artist in New York City today, the heir to the legacy of Tito Puente. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bassist leads an All-Star sextet at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola from January 23-25, 2015 with sets at 7:30 and 9:30pm.
Jazz at Lincoln CenterBroadway at 60th Street (at West 60th Street) in Upper West Side (212) 258-9800
Carlos Henriquez is the most important Latin Jazz artist in New York City today. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bassist leads an All-Star sextet at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola from January 23-25, 2015 with sets at 7:30 and 9:30pm.
To become a master in the classical arts, you have to study or work with one. Jazz isn’t classical music, but it is a classical art.
Carlos Henriquez is a young New York jazz bassist from the Bronx with a Puerto Rican heritage. That puts him in the line of famous New Yorkers like Latin jazz legend Tito Puente the “Mambo King.”
Tito Puente was one of the artists responsible for the Mambo dance craze that swept the United States in the late 1940s and 50s.
Tito Puente is the “Louis Armstrong” of Latin jazz. Louis Armstrong was the pivotal figure in modern jazz and popular music in all its forms. He changed the way music was played and influenced everyone through his long career. Jazz critic Stanley Crouch has most eloquently explained that music was performed one way before Louis Armstrong and another way after. Armstrong brought freedom to jazz and popular music.
That sounds pretentious, but it is true. Nobody played like Louis Armstrong until Louis Armstrong. Afterwards everyone was free to play as themselves. Armstrong is singularly responsible for the rich diversity of jazz and popular music that exists today.
Tito Puente is like that for Latin jazz. Though he eventually settled into his own style, Puente explored all types of music, had an infectious stage persona, and a very long career that touched us all. People around the world know of Tito Puente and recognize his hit songs.
One of the things we didn’t know about Tito Puente is that he was a graduate of the Julliard School, one of the world’s leading schools for classical artists. Before he became famous, Tito Puente got a serious education. [Hint, hint…]
Henriquez studied under the scholarship that Tito Puente set up at Julliard before he passed away. If you spend any time with the Puerto Rican community in the Bronx, you will quickly notice that everybody knows Carlos and is very proud of both artists.
The Palladium Ballroom
Tito Puente got his big break at the Palladium Ballroom here in New York City where Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez and other great musicians of the day never let the music stop and continually tried to outplay each other.
The old dance hall on 53rd Street and Broadway was significant not only because it launched the golden age of Latin music, but especially because it was one of the first clubs to drop the color barrier. Everyone was welcome. Everyone went and mixed and mingled including Hollywood and Broadway stars. Frank Sinatra sat on the floor with kids from El Barrio.
The same type of thing was happening at the Savoy Ballroom up in Harlem where the Benny Goodman Orchestra and the Count Basie Band tried to outplay the Savoy’s house band, the Chick Webb Orchestra.
What mattered in both clubs was how well you could dance. The Palladium’s star dancers, Augie and Margo Rodríguez, showed everyone how to dance Mambo and other Latin dances. The Savoy Ballroom gave birth to the Lindy Hop or Swing dancing.
It was Italian-American promoter Federico Pagani who first opened the doors to Latin people at the Palladium Ballroom. Pagani later launched the legendary “Latin Night” at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village which is now Le Poisson Rouge. The Village Gate was one of the New York City venues where jazz and Latin greats mixed together.
Today Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martínez is making the mix happen down at Subrosa NYC in the Meatpacking District. We were first introduced to Pedrito when he played with Chucho Valdez and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. We heard Henriquez play again when FANIA legend Rubén Blades played with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Now Pedrito is playing with Blades and we don’t know, but we bet there will be some new music coming out of that. Somehow Carlos Henriquez is right in the middle of all this.
Wynton Marsalis hails from a musical family in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. He is another Julliard musician. Wynton is arguably the most important jazz artist in the world today because of his artistry, scholarship, and unique ability to explain to everyone else what jazz musicians are thinking and doing (or did back in the day). He is a walking, talking, horn-blowing encyclopedia of music. Wynton Marsalis and his crew built what is now Jazz at Lincoln Center, the world’s leading jazz performance, education, and advocacy institution.
Wynton Marsalis tapped Henriquez to play in his band right out of high school. We haven’t spoken to Marsalis about it, but we think one of the reasons for his choice is because jazz needs that “Spanish Tinge.”
By Spanish Tinge, jazz players mean a little of that Cuban flavor. Back in the day Cuba was a Spanish colony. Up until recently, it was politically incorrect to name Latin jazz as Cuban music, but it is. Aren’t you glad we live in 2015?
Anyway the conversation between New Orleans and Havana has been going on since the very beginnings of jazz. If you cut out either part, jazz or latin tastes like something is missing from the soup, like gumbo with no spices, or spices with no gumbo.
People say that Puerto Rico and Cuba are two wings of one butterfly. New York musicians with a Puerto Rican heritage played a big part in developing Cuban music into what we call Latin Jazz or Salsa today. So having Carlos Henriquez add his Puerto Rican flavors to the hardest swinging jazz bands in New York City makes a lot of sense.
Come to think of it, Carlos explained jazz as a soup when he music directed and hosted the “Who is Tito Puente?” concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Today Henriquez is the bass player for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
By the way, if you haven’t been to one of their performances, you really should go at least once in your lifetime. The All-Star Orchestra has an impact that is something like standing on an airport runway while a 747 takes off over your head. They will knock you out with the powerful energy of the group balanced by the smart, subtle, sweetness of each player as they trade solos. Sounds like Gumbo, but it’s a real New York City experience.
We’ve watched these guys perform and rehearse together and noticed that the members of the Orchestra have a genuine affection for Henriquez. It’s a brotherly love born out of respect for how hard this guy works and his creativity. Henriquez makes them sound good and they make him sound good.
The theme of this Jazz at Lincoln Center season is “Jazz Across the Americas.” Since this season’s opening show with Cuban jazz legend Chucho Valdez and rising star Pedrito Martínez, we’ve been trying to understand what Jazz at Lincoln Center is saying through their choices of music and artists.
One of the big themes is acknowledging the contributions to jazz by artists from Canada to Argentina. But there is another big theme this season.
The Carlos Henriquez Era
The Palladium Ballroom by Augie Rodríguez
One of the last concerts of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2014-15 season is “The Music of Puente, Machito & Henriquez” on Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13. That’s a reference to the big names that once graced the marquee of the Palladium Ballroom.
To be billed with the “Mambo King” and Machito is an incredible endorsement, especially coming from Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Wynton Marsalis can talk you under the table about any type of music, but sometimes it’s more important to hear what musicians aren’t saying. One of the things Jazz at Lincoln Center does, is tap artists who are important or going to be. If you ever get to play at Jazz at Lincoln Center, it becomes the first thing at the top of your bio.
One more time…to become a master in the classical arts, you have to study or work with one…
It’s our opinion that through this Season’s programming and the international language of jazz, the Wynton Marsalis crew at Jazz at Lincoln Center is saying that Carlos Henriquez is the direct heir to Tito Puente’s legacy, the “Mambo Prince” if you will. Through his scholarship, work ethic, and creativity, Carlos Henriquez is going to influence Latin jazz and popular music for many years to come.
The Friday and Saturday night shows are pretty much sold out, but there are still seats for this Sunday.
Carlos Henriquez Sextet
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is a small jazz supper club with an incredible back wall view over Central Park. Dizzy’s presents live jazz almost every night all year long. The club’s namesake, Dizzy Gillespie was one of the first jazz players to make Latin musicians part of his own band’s sound. It is very appropriate to hear Carlos Henriquez at Dizzy’s.
Carlos Henriquez is going to release his debut album very soon. By going to these concerts, you can be one of the first to hear music from that album in a world-class venue where you are right up close and personal.
For these nights, the Carlos Henriquez Sextet features Sean Jones on trumpet, Felipe Lamoglia (Cuban) on saxophone, Robert Rodriguez on piano, Ali Jackson on drums, and Bobby Allende on congas.
The Carlos Henriquez photo is by Whit Lane, courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jazz at Lincoln Center is the world’s leading Jazz institution in performance, education, and advocacy. The Rose Hall and The Appel Room are the main theaters. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is a Jazz supper club that swings nightly.