Randy Brecker / Conrad Herwig / Eddie Palmieri

The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock

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While Half Note didn't release Conrad Herwig's Grammy-winning The Latin Side of John Coltrane in 1996, they've become the staple for his landmark Latin recordings since. Following 2006's Sketches of Spain y Mas: The Latin Side of Miles Davis and 2008's The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, this collection of eight Herbie Hancock tunes gets the now signature Afro-Cuban treatment from the trombonist and arranger and his all-star lineup, which includes drummer Robby Ameen, saxophonist/flutist Craig Handy, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, pianist Bill O'Connell, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, and percussionist Pedro Martinez. Augmenting the band are second pianist Eddie Palmieri and trumpeter Randy Brecker -- both of whom turn the opener, "Oliloqui Valley," into a burner. Other tunes, from "One Finger Snap" and "Butterfly" (with gorgeous bass clarinet work by Handy) to "Cantaloupe Island," "The Sorcerer," and "Watermelon Man," are also performed. There isn't anything obvious about Herwig's charts. The subtly added harmonics on "One Finger Snap," for example, expand the tune from hard bop to Afro-Caribbean variants that also include Brazilian lyric and rhythmic elements. "The Sorcerer" is played as a descarga as if that were already at the heart of the tune, and Brecker's soloing on it shines. "Actual Proof" gets downright funky with Rodriguez playing a popping electric bass as he interacts with Ameen in a driving groove dialogue. Handy's soprano lines alongside the two trumpeters underscore it. Palmieri's montunos rule "Cantaloupe Island" and "Watermelon Man," two compositions that seem to have just been waiting for his wide-open harmonic and rhythmic deconstructions. Check his knotty, dissonant solo in the lower and middle registers on the former. On the latter, the back and forth between the trumpets and Handy are locked in call-and-response pyrotechnics before Palmieri blows up with a solo that uncovers hidden harmonics and remakes the tune in his own aggressively experimental style without losing sight of the original groove. Herwig's charts are intricate; they fuse the original compositions to Latin considerations; they explore the connections in both arrangement and in the freedom afforded soloists to join him in the quest.

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