Discover the Descarga: The History Behind Carlos Henriquez and Rubén Blades's Latin Jam

Discover the Descarga: The History Behind Carlos Henriquez and Rubén Blades's Latin Jam

News | Sep, 10th 2015

“We put it together in five minutes,” Carlos Henriquez says of “Descarga Entre Amigos,” the catchy single featuring Rubén Blades from Carlos Henriquez’s upcoming album, The Bronx Pyramid.But while the song may have taken only a few minutes to compose, it was decades in the making.

Pre-order a digital copy of The Bronx Pyramid from iTunesor Amazonand get an instant download of "Descarga Entre Amigos" featuring Rubén Blades. The Bronx Pyramid will be released on September 18 by Blue Engine Records.

“Descarga Entre Amigos" is the album's first single and the latest in a long line of descargas—or, jam sessions rooted in Cuban musical forms—that date back to the 1950s and a moment when American jazz was a particularly important influence for Cuban musicians. This cross-cultural pollination led them to experiment with extended improvisations built around their own rhythms and subgenres, including boleros and rumbas. Between 1956 and 1958, the now-defunct Panart record label released the first and most important series of descarga sessions featuring Julio Gutiérrez, Peruchín and, Cachao.

The descarga (Spanish for “discharge”) was soon a fixture on Latin jazz recordings from artists including Bebo Valdés, Chico O'Farrill, and Henriquez’s fellow Nuyorican Tito Puente. In the 1960s, descargas traveled north and found new expression among New York-based musicians. Rival American record companies Alegre, Tico, and Fania all launched their own all-star groups who cut popular descargas. While none of those labels survive today, the descarga has persisted as a Latin jazz staple throughout the decades.

Watch "Descarga Entre Amigos":

When he started recording The Bronx Pyramidin late 2014, Carlos wanted to capture the spontaneous feel and infectious melodicism of those sessions. As the musical director for a November concert featuring Rubén Blades put on by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Carlos had recently connected with the world-famous singer and actor (now starring in AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead).

When he heard about Carlos’s recording sessions, Ruben mock-seriously asked the bassist how he could record the album without including him. Given Blades’s limited availability, Carlos felt the perfect vehicle for the singer would be a descarga.

On December 21st, 2014, Blades arrived in the studio for the jam session that would birth “Descarga Entre Amigos.” Carlos already had the shape of the song worked out in his head; all that was left was for Blades to write lyrics. The rest is history—as Carlos would have it, five-minute history.

According to Carlos, the song is about just how fun collaboration can be. Fun and, in this case, fast.

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