New Release Spotlight: Rubén Blades and Carlos Henriquez

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This week’s new album spotlight showcases two superb live recordings with members of New York’s stellar Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. I’m talking about the new Rubén Blades live set with the big band, Una Noche con Rubén Blades, and secondly, Carlos Henriquez’s Dizzy Con Clave, recorded at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and inspired by Dizzy Gillespie. Henriquez is the bass player for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Both albums feature polished charts and ensemble work, fantastic solos, and excellent recorded sound. I included a track from each on last week’s Spotify playlist, but I would be remiss not to give them both some additional love.

Panama-born, Fania Records legend, and Harvard Law School alum Rubén Blades has never sounded better than on this album with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center crew. Having lived in New York and Los Angeles since the 1970’s, Blades is equally at home with tropical songs in Spanish as well as chestnuts from the great American songbook. He performs his own classic Fania hits like “Pedro Navaja” and “Sin Tu Cariño,” a great version of Héctor Lavoe’s anthemic “El Cantante,” as well as pop standards like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Too Close for Comfort.” The album features terrific solos from the band members, including Marsalis, reedman Ted Nash, and pianist Dan Nimmer. Carlos Henriquez keeps it grounded and steady with eloquent bass lines, too. It’s a five star effort destined for a Latin Grammy—or maybe even a jazz big band Grammy.

Check out this video playlist from that evening’s performance:

A seasoned pro who’s played with the likes of mambo kings Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, and Celia CruzCarlos Henriquez currently plays bass for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. I loved his 2015 album The Bronx Pyramid. His latest release Dizzy Con Clave was recorded at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York with a new octet filled with top names from the East Coast tropical Latin scene. The band covers Gillespie classics such as “Manteca,” “Con Alma,” “Groovin’ High,” and “A Night in Tunisia.” I loved the soaring solos from Chilean-born saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trumpet wizards Michael Rodriguez and Terrell Stafford. Carlos Henriquez talks about his inspirations for this album in this video. Listen to the opening track from the album below:

The Carlos Henriquez Octet (Photo by Frank Stewart) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)