Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Conrad Herwig, The Latin Side of McCoy Tyner, Savant ****

US jazz trombone demigod Conrad Herwig does it again with the latest in his series of ''feel'' masterclasses having radiated so much meaning to ripple out from earlier albums dating back to the 1990s shaped around the incredible body of work and …

Published: 31 May 2024. Updated: 49 days.

US jazz trombone demigod Conrad Herwig does it again with the latest in his series of ''feel'' masterclasses having radiated so much meaning to ripple out from earlier albums dating back to the 1990s shaped around the incredible body of work and crown jewels of 20th-century jazz of Herbie, Wayne, Trane, JoeHen, Mingus and Horace Silver.

When you wrap your ears around this new album dearly befuddled if you have a little time on returning home from jotting down a few ace locomotive serial numbers down Witney way - you at a guess like us will possibly love his take on Blue Note 1967 classic The Real McCoy's 'Search for Peace'. Apart from 'Contemplation' all the tracks on that album are interpreted.

Word is getting out about this Herwig album on this side of the Atlantic. The Times features chief-sub Chris Pearson this week in the paper wigs out to the album - more pros than cons he finds to it - reckoning that The Latin Side of McCoy Tyner is for him one of the best albums of the year.

Packed lunch in your lap, ready then - Oklahoma born 64-year-old Herwig is certainly standing on the shoulders of none other than Curtis Fuller tonally and in getting-it-deep-in-his-soul spirit. It's impossible not to think of Fuller's role on Blue Train. But, of course, the pianist wasn't McCoy on that Coltrane classic - he came later - it was Kenny Drew and certainly trace a line from Drew to McCoy. Drew's much later 1970s trio glory contained on Home is Where the Soul Is perhaps indicates a little of what the key ingredients of his sound that McCoy would have drawn on a bit boiled down to. But McCoy took it to a whole different, higher, level of artistry and became part of a global jazz fanbase's interior soundtrack in the process eventually.

If you love the late departed Fuller who passed away in 2021 aged 86 who was a towering figure in modern jazz, a huge influence still today then to use a McCoyism Herwig certainly walks and talks with the spirits in his own way. He appeared on a long list of deeply revered albums including most notably the aforementioned Blue Train and was the longest survivor of the band - the Detroiter was also on Art Blakey classic Ugetsu (1963) and Hank Mobley's A Caddy for Daddy (released in 1967) to name but a few.

Fuller was of Jamaican descent, raised in an orphanage - he started playing trombone when he was 16. He went to school with Paul Chambers, later of the First Great Miles Davis Quintet also on Blue Train and Kind of Blue, and Donald Byrd.

Herwig stands on the shoulders of Fuller and like David Weiss getting The Cookers together keeps repertory out of the museum, the classroom or the textbooks and where it belongs on records helping to gain new love from new people who weren't even thought of by their grandparents when McCoy was in his heyday. Sadly McCoy died in 2020 aged 81. His sound lives on here. And in work by fine new generation players like Sultan Stevenson writing their own stuff but keeping that sound of McCoy's in their heads for inspiration.

As a composer 'Passion Dance' included on this Herwig album was one of McCoy's biggest achievements. And as a player his individual influence is immense ''going fourth'' practically patenting his own take on quartal harmony and, of course, with Coltrane he is on the greatest album of all - A Love Supreme.

There was always a spiritual, somehow ancient core to some of his progressions and an ecstasy in the aftermath of what he had just created. and you get that here given the power of the compositional spread and internal logic of all the pieces.

Step out into any jazz club and before too long someone might play like McCoy ushering in an utterly distinctive evanescence

Personnel with Herwig includes latin-jazz great Eddie Palmieri who is pretty cosmic to be fair on the fourth track 'Walk Spirit Talk Spirit'. Herwig has played on lots of Palmieri albums including a run on the Concord Picante label, the pick of which for us is 2003's Ritmo Caliente. The great Mingus Big Band player Craig Handy on tenor and bari saxes also figures - read a 2013 interview with Handy here.

Conrad Herwig, photo: photographer unknown

Tags: Reviews

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Published: 31 May 2024. Updated: 49 days.

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