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Another Kind Of Blue: The Latin Side Of Miles Davis by Conrad Herwig

The release of Conrad Herwig’s tribute, and reinterpretation, of Miles Davis’ music encountered the fortunate coincidence of timing for the broad distribution of the Blue Note Jazz Club’s own label, Half Note Records. Previously, all Half Note releases were sold at the club, except for those that could be ordered by e-mail. However, two things led Blue Note’s owners to seize upon the opportunity to make the new record label a brand as well known as the club’s: (1) the fact that Half Note’s Live At The Blue Note CD with Paquito D’Rivera won a Grammy award, causing everyone to reconsider the possibilities of promoting the label more broadly; and (2) the decline of jazz releases as major entertainment conglomerates reorganized and terminated the contracts of numerous jazz artists. Suddenly, a void occurred, and suddenly Half Note was ready to fill it.

Another Kind Of Blue: The Latin Side Of Miles Davis is one of two CD’s representing the launch of the new label, Kenny Werner’s Peace being the other. Herwig’s nonet offers all of the positives of memorable live recordings: energized musicians, enthusiastic audiences, playing without the safety net of studio retakes, possibly the trying out of new arrangements, high-quality sound engineering, and the savoring of the ephemeral nature of the performance. Having previously recorded Latin versions of John Coltrane’s music, now Herwig has set out to consider Miles Davis’ music in ways that Davis himself never played it with clavé and Afro-Caribbean polyrhythyms. Taking his concept even further, Herwig chose to Latin-ize the best-selling jazz record of all time: Kind Of Blue.

Some of the tracks of Kind Of Blue seem to defy efforts to apply alternative rhythms to them, especially the iridescent "Blue In Green," certainly one of the most succinct, affecting and ever-fresh earworms burrowing into the listener’s consciousness and then never leaving it throughout a lifetime of all jazz standards. But Herwig does it by applying elements of bolero to the tune’s rhythms and converting it almost to a ballad while retaining the modulations that characterize the tune. Even more unexpected, though, is Brian Lynch’s astounding arrangement of "Flamenco Sketches," likewise thought previously to be an inviolable artistic entity that isn’t amenable to radical reconsideration. But Lynch sees the tune as material for re-composition, even as he honors the original masterwork. "Flamenco Sketches," previously ethereal and suggestive (sketches indeed rather than detailed paintings), assumes reconfiguration as a guaguancó with a street carnival lead-in by drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Richie Flores. The fully developed harmonies remain, ranging from the rich bass-clef movement of Mario Rivera’s baritone sax to Brian Lynch’s trumpet work several octaves higher while Herwig fills in the internal voicings.

With excitement arising from the possibilities of the music and respect for the eternal nature of the music of Kind Of Blue, the musicians of Herwig’s nonet hold nothing back as they play to bring the audience into the music. D’Rivera’s over-the-top solo on "All Blues," interpreted as a boogaloo with oh-so-appropriate quotes from "Watermelon Man," provides just one of the many highlights of the gig at the Blue Note. Just as important are the members of the rhythm section, who individually and collectively propel the music with an extroverted flair.

To compensate for the differences in length between the old vinyl albums and the CD format, Herwig has included, as a bonus, "Petits Machins" from Miles Davis’ Filles De Kilimanjaro. Recorded in March, 2003, Another Kind Of Blue experienced a revival of sorts when Herwig’s group performed almost exactly a year later at the Blue Note as he keeps the concept alive and brings the Latin side of Miles Davis to a new audience. Now, a year later, the CD documenting the live performance of Herwig’s group is available throughout the world as a result of Half Note’s agreement with Ryko Distribution.

My vote for the next Latin Side recording? How about The Latin Side Of Herbie Hancock? Maiden Voyage. Empyrean Isles. Speak Like A Child. Headhunters.

Or The Latin Side Of Rahsaan Roland Kirk? Or The Latin Side Of Duke Ellington? Or The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter? The possibilities are endless.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Conrad Herwig
  • CD Title: Another Kind Of Blue: The Latin Side Of Miles Davis
  • Genre: Latin Jazz / Latin Funk
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Half Note
  • Tracks: So What, Freddie Freeloader, Blue In Green, All Blues, Flamenco Sketches, Petits Machins
  • Musicians: Conrad Herwig (trombone); Brian Lynch (trumpet); Mario Rivera (baritone saxophone); Paquito D’Rivera (alto saxophone, clarinet); Dave Valentin (flute); Edsel Gomez (piano); John Benitiz (bass); Robby Ameen (drums); Richie Flores (congas, percussion)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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