By Edward Kliszus

The Roxy Hotel’s The Django is located in its cellar space and is an excellent venue for cool jazz, dining, and cocktails. Entering the hotel, one is struck by the music-adorned ambiance, beauty, and mystique of Art Deco, plush settings, and rich woods that grace its interior. The Django is an intimate and exciting space, reminding one of the finest historical jazz venues in NYC.

Conrad Herwig. Photo from thedjangonyc.com

The provenance of The Django is attributed to the colorful and explosive French guitarist Django Reinhardt, who was invited to America by Duke Ellington after World War II. He was one of the first overseas musicians to influence his jazz contemporaries in America. From Django, we elicit wanderlust, genius, sincerity, perseverance, and formidable creativity. It all makes sense when Herwig and his septet start to play.

Django Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars at The Django. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Django Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars at The Django. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Trombonist/composer Conrad Herwig and the Latin side all-stars ascended the stage to deliver their first musical offering. Splendid charts, extended improvisation, artistic interaction, virtuoso performances, a tight horn section, and a solid rhythm section immediately lit the room. A powerhouse of Latin rhythmic fire by drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Mauricio Herrera on congas ignited an astounding sojourn.

Django Conrad Herwig, Alex Norris and Craig Handy at The Django. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Django Conrad Herwig, Alex Norris, and Craig Handy at The Django. Photo by Edward Kliszus

The septet’s rendition of John Coltrane’s Lonnie’s Lament featured a remarkable bass solo by Kenny Davis and a commanding drum solo by Robby Ameen. The packed house audibly acclaimed Herwig’s introduction to Horace Silver’s Song for My Father. Herwig also performed a trombone ballad feature with piano, using only one slide on his instrument to create a soft, airy, and mellow sound. Horace Silver’s Nutville featured the band in a ferocious tempo with special recognitions due for pianist Bill O’Connell, tenor saxophonist Craig Handy, and trumpeter Alex Norris.

Robby Ameen and Mauricio Herrera. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Robby Ameen and Mauricio Herrera. Photo by Edward Kliszus

It was clear that this event was the product of extraordinary artists pursuing a musicality of fresh, exciting sounds. Reminiscent of the devout modernism of pianist Horace Silver and fellow hard bopsters like Art Blakey and John Coltrane, a new progressive idiom emerged from tonight’s amalgam of cool, avant-garde, flexible jazz, and Latin energies. The spirit of adventure was palpable.

Django Pianist Bill O'Connell. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Django Pianist Bill O’Connell. Photo by Edward Kliszus

The arrangements and playing honored the music’s psyche and the souls of the composers. Solo improvisations were extensive, virtuosic, and driven by rhythmic enterprise and a solid rhythm section. Amazing, exciting, and inventive.

As Duke Ellington reminded us, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars have the swing and more! Be sure to check out their Tuesday night residency running into March 2023. Some evenings will be dedicated to jazz giants like Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Conrad Herwig and The Latin Side All-Stars at The Django

Conrad Herwig – Trombone
Alex Norris – Trumpet
Craig Handy – Sax, Flute
Bill O’Connell – Piano
Kenny Davis – Bass
Robby Ameen – Drums
Mauricio Herrera – Percussion

The Django

At the Roxy Hotel New York, Cellar Level
2 6th Ave
New York, NY 10013
(212) 519-6649
For information, go to https://www.thedjangonyc.com/
Reservations at  thedjangonyc.comresy.com

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Bill Charlap at Birdland, The Wood Brothers with the Kat Wright Trio at MPAC, Vanessa Williams at 54 Below,  and Ben Wendel at the Village Vanguard.