Bassist Carlos Henriquez had just returned from Cleveland, where he worked with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra, having performed Wynton Marsalis’s composition “Swing Symphony” when we talked.
A member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Marsalis for the past 13 years, the Bronx native discussed his entry into the music genre. “My parents played music, so it was a natural introduction for me. When I was young, there were music programs for kids. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these types of programs in the school curriculum today. My parents were great and encouraged me. I was accepted into the Music Advancement Program at Julliard, a program that helped me and gave lots of inner-city kids an opportunity. Through their workshops and various programs, I began to see a future in music and met others who held the same ambitions in music as me. I started with guitar and became good at it, but then I fell in love with the bass. I learned the bass at Julliard from my teacher John Schaeffer. Later, other bassists took me under their wing and taught me even more,” said Henriquez, who performed with Latin greats such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Celia Cruz since the age of 14.
Henriquez went on to explain his relationship with Marsalis and his musical choices. “I had an in depth one-to-one classical teacher who taught me for 13 years before I began playing with Wynton and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. I am heavily into jazz, Afro Cuban and classical music. I love Brazilian music and listen to music from all over the world. However, at this time, I focus mostly on the genre of jazz and Afro Cuban jazz.
“I met Wynton through a trumpeter friend named Steven. Steven invited me to hear a JALC orchestra rehearsal. I was playing acoustically, but it blew my mind when I heard them playing music for Alvin Ailey. They were doing ‘Sweet Release and Ghost Story.” I was hooked. Once I met Wynton, I started hanging out with him and the orchestra. I went to their rehearsals and then Wynton started calling me to play gigs. I got to meet so many people, like Shirley Horn, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder, through a JALC collaboration. I owe Wynton a lot for helping me and making me part of the JALC Orchestra. He could have hired someone else with more experience, but he helped me and I am so grateful to him. Wynton does a lot of good things. He helps promote young musicians. I was 17 when I met Wynton, and he has given me several opportunities to grow. He asked me to be the music director when we went to Cuba in 2010. It was a great learning experience for Cuba, for me and JALC,” Henriquez recalled.
Henriquez will be returning to the Bronx Saturday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s opening night and efforts to reach out to the boroughs. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will debut new compositions and arrangements by Henriquez as part of the veteran bassist’s return home to honor his musical roots. The orchestra will also be joined by special guests percussionists Bobby Allende and Marc Quinones in honor of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 28th season. Titled “Carlos Henriquez: Back in the Bronx,” Jazz at Lincoln Center will open their season at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West in the Bronx. Interested parties can purchase tickets via jazz.org or through CenterCharge at 212-721-6500, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased at the Jazz at Lincoln Center box office, located on Broadway at 60th Street, on the ground floor within the Time Warner Center Mall.
Henriquez is about to release his first CD Sept. 18 via the Blue Engine Records label, titled “Bronx Pyramid” with the JALC Orchestra and Marsalis and featuring the vocals of Ruben Blades on the tune “Descarga Entre Amigos.” The CD can be pre-ordered on iTunes and Amazon. For further information, go to blueengine.org, jazz.org or Henriquez’s Facebook page.
“My mother died 8 years ago. I lost her to cancer, so this album is a tribute to her. Therefore, I’m especially pleased the CD will be released on my mother’s birthday, September 18. My dad is a hard worker and my brother, who is a great dancer, have been wonderful influences in my life. It took me a while to do my album. The 10 tunes on ‘Bronx Pyramid’ highlight my life experiences. Wynton was instrumental in making me the poster child for the CD ‘Bronx Pyramid.’ He graciously gave me the opportunity to do my music on the September 12 show at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. Marsalis centered the show around me, entitling it ‘Carlos Henriquez: Back in the Bronx, featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis,’” said the bassist, who promises Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 28th season, opening at Lehman Center’s Bronx venue, will be a night to remember.