NEW YORK (AP) — Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is opening its new season away from home, but for Bronx-born Nuyorican bassist Carlos Henriquez it will be a homecoming.
Saturday night's concert at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx marks the first time JALC is not starting the season at its own space since Rose Hall opened in 2004 in the Time Warner Center in midtown Manhattan. JALC's main concert halls are closed until December while its public spaces are being redesigned.
"I love being in the community because one of the first goals that we had when we started Jazz at Lincoln Center was always to get out in the boroughs," said Marsalis, in a telephone interview that also included Henriquez.
At the concert, "Carlos Henriquez: Back in the Bronx," the 36-year-old bassist will premiere big band arrangements of compositions combining the jazz and Afro-Latin musical traditions featured on his debut album as a leader, "The Bronx Pyramid."
The title track, featuring Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez on batas drums, reflects the pyramid-shaped boundaries of his South Bronx neighborhood where family and friends looked after him.
"I still have family there," said Henriquez. "It's an honor to head back to perform at Lehman with the guys that nurtured me, especially Wynton who took care of me at a young age and ... helped me understand how to combine both styles."
Salsa singer Frankie Vazquez will join the band at Lehman to perform several Latin standards, including "El Cantante," Puerto Rican singer Hector Lavoe's signature song.
Henriquez's CD, which features his small combo, is being released Sept. 18, the birthday of his mother Nilda, a dancer who died of cancer eight years ago. It includes his ballad, "Nilda," dedicated to the woman he says is "the reason why I'm a musician."
Singer Ruben Blades makes a guest appearance on "Descarga Entre Amigos," singing a Henriquez tune that developed out of an improvised jam session.
"My mom loved listening to jazz and to Hispanic, Afro-Cuban music," said Henriquez. "It's what I grew up listening to, and it comes naturally for me to link them."
As a teenager, Henriquez performed with such Latin legends as Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri. He came to Marsalis' attention as a member of the band from LaGuardia High School, the "Fame" performing arts school, which won JALC's inaugural Essentially Ellington school band competition in 1996.
Marsalis mentored the teenager and invited Henriquez to join the JLCO in 1998 after he graduated from high school. Henriquez has become the orchestra's go-to expert on Latin music and served as musical director for its groundbreaking 2010 Cuba tour.
"I couldn't be more proud of what Carlos has done," Marsalis said. "He knows forms of music that I don't know, and many times I'm calling on him for education. It's important with the Afro-Latin music to have as many advocates as possible."