Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side Of Mingus

The trombonist's typically spirited reading of another jazz luminary turns even Goodbye Porkpie Hat into a foot-tapping swinger


Conrad Herwig is well-versed in the Afro-Cuban idiom having worked with Eddie Palmieri since 1985. Over the years his Latin Side series has featured the music of John Coltrane (1996), Miles Davis (2003), Wayne Shorter (2006), Herbie Hancock (2008), Joe Henderson (2012) and Horace Silver (2019), most of the albums nominated for Grammy awards.

It was only a question of time before Herwig turned his attention to Charles Mingus. He was often the musical director of the Mingus Big Band and was the arranger for the Grammy-nominated 2005 Live At The Tokyo Blue Note CD (Sunnyside SSC 3042).

The opening blues, Gunslinging Bird, has some sparkling trumpet from Randy Brecker, clearly inspired by the band chanting behind him. Herwig makes his entrance over a stop-time figure. His powerful sound recalls the exuberance of Slide Hampton (an acknowledged influence) and Jimmy Knepper, a long-time Mingus sideman.

Boogie Stop Shuffle, with its driving rhythm, finds Herwig and Brecker really stretching out inventively for six choruses each. Brian Priestley’s definitive Mingus biography points out that Don’t Let It Happen Here is a poem by the German anti-fascist pastor Norman Niemoller. It benefits from a moving narration by Rubén Blades. Mingus recorded it at the Village Gate back in 1965 at a time of unrest during the civil rights protests.

The evocative Goodbye Pork Pie Hat has evolved from an emotional elegy to a foot-tapping swinger in Herwig’s hands. Hora Decubitus, aka E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too, is notable for a series of exchanges between Handy, Brecker and Herwig, climaxing with all three improvising together for a stimulating Mingus-like effect.

Hats off, incidentally, to Luques Curtis, who succeeds in the unenviable task of performing in the Charles Mingus role on this classic material.

(1) Gunslinging Bird; Boogie Stop Shuffle; Don’t Let It Happen Here; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Hora Decubitus; (2) Duke Ellington Sound Of Love; (1) All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother; Better Git It In Your Soul (56.40)
(1) Randy Brecker (t); Herwig (tb); Craig Handy (ts, f, bcl); Bill O’Connell (p, elp); Luques Curtis (b); Bobby Ameen (d); Camilo Molina (pc); Rubén Blades (narration). Paramus, New Jersey, 2022. (2) as (1) add Alex Sipiagin (t, flh).
Savant SCD 2205