Grammy nominee Carlos Henriquez credits his upbringing in South Bronx with shaping his smooth Latin jazz sound

Grammy nominee Carlos Henriquez credits his upbringing in South Bronx with shaping his smooth Latin jazz sound

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NEW YORK — Growing up in the Bronx was the inspiration behind a jazz musician’s first Grammy-nominated solo album.

CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock introduces us to Carlos Henriquez.

The smooth bellow of the bass belongs Henriquez, an accomplished musician whose story begins in the South Bronx.

“This is the Betances project, and this is where I was raised,” Henriquez said.

Twenty years of moments lived in the neighborhood shape the music he plays today.

“I heard a lot of Latin music. You know, salsa, traditional Latin music, Dominican music, Haitian music,” Henriquez said. “That was the beauty of living here is that I was absorbing all that.”

Music wasn’t always on his mind.

“I wanted to be a baseball player. I wanted to be an Air Force pilot,” Henriquez said.

Then, in elementary school at Public School 030, music entered his world. He played clarinet and piano. In middle school, the classical guitar. Then, Henriquez filled in for the bassist at church.

“I started falling in love with the position of playing the bass,” he said. “I started slowly understanding that I could be something musically and I could really touch people spiritually.”

He attended LaGuardia High School, Julliard, too. While still in his teens, he started playing with some very big names.

Carlos Henriquez, center, performs with Wynton Marsalis, right, on July 27, 2014 in New Orleans.

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Famed musician Wynton Marsalis recalled meeting Henriquez when he was just 14.

“He started playing this bass. He had unbelievable sound and beat and I was like, ‘Man, where are you from?’ He said, ‘The Bronx, papa, the South Bronx,'” Marsalis said. 

When asked if he knew right way that Henriquez was talented, Marsalis said, “Anybody who heard him would know that. He was unbelievable.”

For more than two decades the two have traveled the world playing together, in Marsalis’ band and for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Henriquez also has three solo albums — the most recent, “The South Bronx Story.”

“This neighborhood is a part of me and through music I try to relive those moments,” Henriquez said.

Through the notes, he shares stories from his youth.

“I talk about the gangs of the South Bronx, the ghetto brothers,” Henriquez said.

He reflects on abandoned, burned-out buildings and on cooling off in summer, thanks to the hydrant.

“We used to sit on the back. We used to funnel and spray all the kids,” Henriquez said.

He is now nominated for a Grammy for “Best Latin Jazz Album.”

“His album is fantastic,” Marsalis said.

Asked about the emotion of learning he was a Grammy nominee, Henriquez said, “The phone keeps ringing, ‘Congrats, congrats,’ and I’m like oh boy.”

Sunday is the big day. The Grammys will air on CBS2 at 8 p.m.

“I want him to win. He deserves it,” Marsalis said.

But, Carlos can play — and take the listener on a journey through the South Bronx of his childhood.

Henriquez said access to music in New York City public schools changed his world by keeping him off the streets. He now calls New Jersey home.

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