Acclaimed GRAMMY Award-nominated bassist and composer Carlos Henriquez is thrilled to present his fourth album as a bandleader, A Nuyorican Tale. Following in the footsteps of his GRAMMY-nominated release The South Bronx Story, Henriquez’s new album is rooted in Nuyorican culture, and shines a light on the complex history of Puerto Ricans in New York City. Joining Henriquez on this important new work is vocalist and flutist Jeremy Bosch, trumpeters Mike Rodriguez and Terrell Stafford, trombonist Marshall Gilkes, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, pianist Robert Rodriguez, percussionist Anthony Almonte, and drummer Obed Calvaire. A Nuyorican Tale releases independently on September 15, 2023.
Over the past two decades, Carlos Henriquez’s star has steadily risen, bolstered by his tenure as the bassist of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Born in the South Bronx, much of Henriquez’s solo work is informed by his Puerto Rican heritage. Using his unique platform as the anchor of the world’s pre-eminent jazz orchestra, Henriquez has successfully shared the stories of the Puerto Rican people through music: notably, on his GRAMMY nominated album The South Bronx Story, and through various commissions that have been performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center. On A Nuyorican Tale, Henriquez presents a collection of urban Latin jazz tales that speaks to the complex Puerto Rican and Nuyorican conundrum in New York City. While The South Bronx Story focused on the bassist’s own personal history and experience, A Nuyorican Tale shifts attention to the overall Nuyorican experience, specifically those families who migrated to New York City and the South Bronx from Puerto Rico. Over the course of 9 tracks, Henriquez offers an insightful and educational history lesson – one that tells of the racial tension and hard-won battles that galvanized the community’s historical path, and defined the Puerto Rican cultural experience.
Connection to the ancestors is a major tenant of A Nuyorican Tale, and a driving force behind the bassist’s latest work. Henriquez told journalist Ed Morales in a recent article in the New York Times:
“I’m working on my next album and I realize we’re right in the middle of this neighborhood that used to be called San Juan Hill. And then I find out, we used to live here, with African Americans, and Benny Carter wrote a suite called Echoes of San Juan Hill, and Thelonious Monk used to play here. I came to realize how valuable this neighborhood was, and I found this out because I was yearning to find my connection to jazz.”
San Juan Hill was a neighborhood in Manhattan bound between 59th and 65th streets, from Amsterdam to West End Avenue. It was a major population hub for African American, Afro-Caribbean and Puerto Rican people, before its demolition in the mid-20th century due to urban renewal. Thousands of families were displaced in order to build one of the most famous cultural institutions in the world: Lincoln Center. This history, coupled with the opening of the new David Geffen Hall last year, inspired A Nuyorican Tale. “This album is all about San Juan Hill, what happened there, and how it influenced generations of Puerto Ricans,” he says.
Highlights include the opener “Nuyorican Souls”, a favorite of Henriquez that discusses Puerto Ricans as an unseen child. “Puerto Ricans are often the ones added for flavor, but credit is rarely given. The song addresses this. When you listen, it carries words about Puerto-Nuyoricans, our coolness, and the rhythms we bring. It’s a song where I express my opinion on being a Nuyorican in New York City and the South Bronx.” The next track, “Bodegas Groove” discusses the bodega delis Henriquez grew up around, and the vibe the owners of these establishments would bring. “They treated families well and made the neighborhood feel cool,” he says. This tasty cha-cha features a particularly soulful Henriquez-solo on double bass and a soaring solo from trumpeter Terrel Stafford. On “Afro-Monk” listeners are treated to a perfect combination of American jazz with an Afro-Cuban touch in 6/8 where Henriquez’s compositional talent shines, and pays respect to Thelonius Monk. At the same time he presents a masterful bass solo where he demonstrates how both worlds coexist.
“Robert’s Red Line” is one of the richest tracks on the album, as it tells the story of the issues New York City faced when urban planner Robert Moses changed Lincoln Square. “It’s based on a true story about New York City’s redlining and how the government labeled San Juan Hill a slum. They drew a line around it, making it difficult for people in the neighborhood to get loans and move out. The song talks about how the neighborhood was destroyed, and how being of dark colors meant being destined to fail. It delves into the controversial issue of how San Juan Hill and Lincoln Center persisted for years without addressing or confronting it,” says Henriquez.
“After you listen to these Latin-Jazz interpretations of the stories that I feel are the pinnacle and representation of my life, you, too, will get a sense of the importance of my people and their culture and what they’ve provided via their stories and music to our city,” reflects Henriquez.
“A Nuyorican Tale is more than just music. It is a three-dimensional acknowledgment of souls from Africa, and our native Taino family all blended as one. When you combine these, you experience a Nuyorican: one who carries the torch and bears the rhythmic souls of our ancestors.”