Together. Honoring My Father.
Carlos Averhoff Jr.
In Together Honoring My Father (Sunnyside), saxophonist Carlos Averhoff Jr. pays tribute to his late father, Cuban saxophonist and educator Carlos Averhoff, and resumes an interrupted conversation.
At Averhoff Sr.’s passing in December 2016, the two had begun to collaborate on a recording. It’s hardly a big leap to see it as more than just a musical project. The notes accompanying the release talk of how Averhoff Jr. “did not get much direct instruction from his father” and how “the relationship between father and son strained when the elder Averhoff left Cuba, finally settling [in 1997] in Miami.” But in 2006, Averhoff Jr., then 26, moved to Miami, and father and son got to work together a few times. Two years later, Averhoff Jr. moved on to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory and grow his professional career in a more welcoming jazz environment.
Eight years passed, and father and son agreed to work on a project together. There were some sessions in 2016, but the Averhoffs managed to record together only one track. When Averhoff Sr. died, the album seemed to die with him. But in December 2020, Carlos Jr. decided to complete it.
In the process, Together, which started as a father-son collaboration became a memorial.
Averhoff Sr. was an excellent player best known as a member of the Afro Cuban jazz-rock small big band Irakere. As part of a fearsome front line that at one point included trumpeters Jorge Varona and Arturo Sandoval, and reedman Paquito D’Rivera, Averhoff might have been overlooked by some. But his tone, impeccable technique, and on-point soloing were indispensable to the group’s sound. Written by Averhoff Jr., it should come as no surprise that “Sequence For You,” the opening track in Together, is a tribute to Irakere. It features pianist Chucho Valdés, the band’s founder, principal composer, and arranger, and saxophonist German Velasco and trumpeter Juan Munguia, two Averhoff Sr. bandmates on Irakere. Valdés offers a fiery, expansive introduction and later returns for a solo brimming with urgency. Carlos Sr. would have smiled at the fireworks of the unison passages, played fast, precisely, and with swing on the fly — an Irakere trademark.
Averhoff Jr. has a muscular, virile tone with a hint of a rough edge — but he’s a heavyweight with a dancer’s feet. He contributes five of the eight pieces, including the title track, which, with its jagged, angular melody and eccentric rhythms (an echo of “the elder’s sense of humor,” suggest the accompanying notes), plays like a variation on a Monk tune.
There’s also an elegant but streetwise conga, “Oriented Conga.” Here the tenor and flute soloing by Averhoff Jr. and Orlando “Maraca” Valle suggest a sort of yin and yang of power and lightness. As for other highlights, Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” gets a forceful, probing reading with special mentions to pianist Jim Gasior, and drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.
Together ends at the beginning: with a reading of Charlie Parker’s classic “Donna Lee ” featuring Carlos Sr. on soprano and his son on tenor (we hear Averhoff Sr. saying “Vamos,” Let’s go, to launch the tune). Arranged by the elder Averhoff with an Afro Cuban groove, a bop feel, and melodic hairpin turns played fast in octave unison, this “Donna Lee” would not have been out of place on an Irakere set.
If the proper response to a poem is a poem, perhaps the appropriate tribute to an excellent musician (especially one who happens to be your father) is music well-played, with heart and flawless technique. In Together, Carlos Averhoff Jr. pays a proper homage and more.
An edited version of this review appeared in the summer 2022 issue of JAZZIZ magazine