Carlos Henriquez clearly has the ability to swing. He has toured with jazz legends Tito Puente and Wynton Marsalis, and picked up competition wins along the way. In between rehearsals for JLCO’s Fall 2010 tour, we find him thankful, thoughtful and very much in love with jazz.
Sun: The Lincoln Center is going to Cuba in October. What really excites you about this trip?
Carlos Henriquez: The trip to Cuba is going to be a very important one for us because it’s one of the first times the Jazz at Lincoln Center has ever been to Cuba. It’s important just bringing in democratic music into a whole continent … it’s just something that’s unheard of. The whole purpose of this trip is to learn music, not just to have a cultural exchange amongst Cuban musicians and of course the American jazz musicians, the beauty of it is to learn their music instead of our music.
Sun: You’re really interested in mixing Latin American music with jazz. Tell us more about that!
C.H.: Before I started working with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, I was doing a lot, a lot, a lot of Latin music … One of my first jazz gigs or jobs was with Wynton Marsalis. I was very lucky. I was the fortunate one because, you know, a lot of people have to go through all these channels to be where I’m at.
I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and at the same time I was doing a lot of work, a lot of Latin jazz, Latin work, a lot of Martinique … That was the upside of working with professionals. It was just a matter of time before I fell in love with it. Wynton Marsalis, the great man that he is, recommended me and took me under his wing and taught me a lot throughout my life.
Sun: You’ve hosted the Jazz for Young People sessions. I’ve watched videos of some of these sessions and I think it’s great how these events really bring people together. How is it different playing for a student audience?
C.H.: Jazz for Young Kids was one of the reasons why I was heavily in love with jazz. One of my first encounters with jazz was when I was twelve. I went to see one of the Jazz for Young People concerts and I fell in love with the show. I’ve hosted a couple in New York City and it’s a great stepping stone for a child who has talent or who has some kind of knowledge towards music, you know, they get to see the music, they get to learn the music, and at the same time they get to experience it up close and up front.
We’re doing a Jazz for Young People session in Cuba too and it’s very important. We are going to be able to meet the kids in Cuba and be able to associate (with) music in an enclosed environment…
Sun: What is it about jazz music that continues to draw you to it, after so many years?
C.H.: You’re talking about me? You mean, personally?
Sun: Yes, personally.
C.H.: Jazz is so, so, so involved and at the same time it’s so special. It’s such an important part of American history. I’m born in America, and I can be part of American history by playing this music. That in itself allows me to contribute, and at the same time it’s a learning process. You know, it’s never ending.
In the end, you will always learn something about music. At the same time you also learn something about yourself every time you start making music … and you kind of understand how to deal with people … jazz embodies the style of New Orleans, because jazz is born in New Orleans, which is basically the trading point, the entry point to basically any culture that’s ever been in America. So that’s why I’m always attracted to it.
Sun: Wow. That’s great. Thank you so much for your time! I’ll be at the concert.
C.H.: Thanks for the call!
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis plays Bailey Hall on Sept. 30.
Original Author: Daveen Koh