Last week, DCMTA caught up with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) bassist Carlos Henriquez via telephone on a rainy day in Chicago to chat about his Washington, DC tribute performance to trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Titled Grooving with Dizzy, the June 1st concert put on by Washington Performing Arts at Sixth & I will pay tribute to Gillespie’s Latin jazz legacy.
According to Henriquez, “the vibe will be song and dance. It’s basically my interpretation of Dizzy’s hits. And I just gave it a Latin twist, although some of them already had a Latin twist. I’m just adding a more modern taste to it.”
According to Miles Davis in his autobiography Miles, “[Dizzy] was playing music from Africa and Cuba a long time before it got popular anywhere else.”
Gillespie is known for being a pioneer in bringing Afro-Cuban music to jazz, and he is famous for such iconic Latin-influenced tunes like “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo.” These tunes, Henriquez believes, “are iconic because of that Dizzy era in 1948, [and] the introduction of [Cuban percussionist] Chano Pozo was very monumental to Latinos regardless if you were Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Haitian. That introduction was a key moment for us to have a way into the jazz world when he [Dizzy] started collaborating with Chano Pozo.”
“Manteca” opens with the bass and congo setting the vibe, and the melody has become so grounded in the Afro-Cuban jazz repertoire that it is immediately recognized even when its name escapes memory.
Dizzy’s early recordings of “Tin Tin Deo” featured only the trumpet and bass. Curious listeners await Henriquez’s arrangement of this jazz standard to see where he takes it.
Henriquez’s band for this engagement will include himself, brothers Robert Rodriquez on piano and Michael Rodriquez on trumpet; trumpeter Jesus Mato, Jr.; JLCO trombonist Vincent Gardner; Cuban tenor saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, who has played with Arturo Sandoval; percussionist Marcos Lopez; and Marcos Torez on congas.
As an added attraction, Henriquez further seasons the ensemble with vocalist and flutist Jeremy Bosch, who is a member of the Grammy-award winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, rounding out what Washington Performing Arts describes as Henriquez’s “ace octet.”
While Bosch might officially provide the vocals, listen for Henriquez’s own vocalizations, earning him the moniker the “singing bass” by some of his fans. Henriquez admits that “throughout my whole youth learning the bass, whenever I would solo, I would always sing my parts. But my mom didn’t like it because I would sometimes make a grinding sound. This happens a lot with musicians because the hardest thing about playing an instrument is that you have to make yourself one with your instrument.”
In addition to leading this all-star ensemble in perhaps reacquainting a new generation to the music of Dizzy Gillespie with some fresh and innovative arrangements and his tenure with JLCO that dates back to 1998, Henriquez commutes to Chicago “once every two weeks” to share his jazz and bass-playing wisdom with students at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.
What’s on the horizon for Henriquez in addition to arranging and performing Gillespie’s music for what is anticipated as an enthusiastic DC audience? Henriquez is engaged in writing and recording some original compositions that examine his childhood growing up in the Bronx. He describes this project as being “like a brother to the West Side Story. So, I call it ‘The South Bronx Story.’ It’s my eyes of the South Bronx.” Many poets from the Bronx, including Felipe Luciano, have expressed an interest in this project.
Stomp your feet, open your ears, and dance the night away as Henriquez and his band bring us the music of Dizzy Gillespie.