Mar 12, 2012
Are we in the midst of a renaissance in jazz trombone?
Most of us are aware that the trombone was one of the first instruments used by New Orleans jazz greats like Kid Ory. The Swing Era gave monster players like Tommy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden. The top bands always had killer players - the Ellington Band had “Tricky Sam” Nanton; Count Basie had Vic Dickenson; and Woody Herman introduced Kai Winding and Benny Green, who later led their own groups. And let’s not forget the “father of modern trombone”, J.J. Johnson.
Mid-century masters like Roswell Rudd, Curtis Fuller and Slide Hampton are still going strong, and their direct descendants are making a big noise. Among those who lead bands making critically acclaimed recordings are Steve Turre, Wycliffe Gordon, Robin Eubanks, and Bob Brookmeyer. Trombone Shorty mixes New Orleans R&B with his jazz trombone, and headlines festivals all over the world.
And then there’s our guest for this podcast, the inimitable Conrad Herwig. Having cut his teeth in the Clark Terry Big Band, and then with Eddie Palmieri, he has emerged as one of the most consistently interesting trombone players in the business. He records in both the Latin Jazz and Straight Ahead genres, earning three Grammy nominations for his “The Latin Side of…”CDs featuring the music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter.
I spoke with Conrad about how these widely praised CDs came to be, as well as bout his new CD, a trio recording with pianist Richie Beirach and drummer Jack DeJohnette entitled The Tip of the Sword. Click here to listen to the conversation, along with musical selections including:
Conrad Herwig – “Blue Train” from The Latin Side of John Coltrane. Nominated for a 1998 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Performance, the huge cast of top musicians included Herwig on trombone; Ray Vega and Brian Lynch (trumpet); Dave Valentin (flute); Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan (baritone sax); a fearsome foursome of pianists - Danilo Pérez, Eddie Palmieri, Edward Simon , and Richie Beirach; and Adam Cruz (drums).
Conrad Herwig – “Flamenco Sketches” from Another Kind of Blue: The Latin Side of Miles Davis. Many of the same players participated in this Grammy nominated album recorded live at the Blue Note in 2003. New faces included Paquito D'Rivera (alto saxophone, clarinet); Edsel Gomez (piano); and Robby Ameen (drums).
Conrad Herwig – “Thought Precedes Action” from The Tip of the Sword. Moving from large ensemble recordings, this trio session with long-time collaborator Beirach and drummer DeJohnette shows a more straight ahead, contemporary edge to Herwig’s playing.
Joe Henderson – “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leaving Soon” from Porgy & Bess. Herwig had a long and productive association with the late Joe Henderson, including touring as part of his band, and recording sessions on his Big Band and Porgy & Bess albums.
Miles Davis – “Blues for Pablo” from Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux. Here’s another of Conrad’s idols that he got a chance to perform with. Recorded at one of Miles’ last major performances before his death, and conducted by Quincy Jones, Soloists supporting Miles included Wallace Roney on trumpet and Kenny Garrett on sax.
Mingus Big Band – “Wednesday Prayer Meeting” from I Am Three. Herwig is often part of this highly important Big Band, and will tour with them this summer celebrating the 90th anniversary of Mingus’ birth. Among those recording in the band here are bassist Boris Kozlov, fellow trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy, alto sax player Craig Handy, and pianist George Colligan.