New York-based jazz trombonist Conrad Herwig is considered one of the world’s complete jazz musicians, atop both the performing and jazz educational fields with an abundance of composer and arranger credits, as well. To date, he has released 20 recordings as a leader in addition to contributing to nearly 200 other recording sessions with some of the most notable artists in jazz. He has performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Joe Henderson, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Frank Sinatra, Joe Lovano and Tom Harrell, among many others.
Born November 1, 1959, in Lawton, Okla., Herwig is an inductee of that state’s Jazz Hall of Fame. He spent his formative musical years in Hawaii under the aura of jazz icon trombonist Trummy Young, graduating from Punahou High School. The gifted trombonist then went to the University of North Texas, performing as a member of the famed One O’Clock Jazz Lab Band. Later in his career he would complete his studies at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., where he received his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Afro-Caribbean ethnomusicology. Herwig’s formal studies came to a close with a Master of Arts degree in Jazz Studies from Queens College, a branch of City University of New York.
Equally well-versed in the bebop, hard bop and modern jazz musical languages, Herwig’s professional performance career commenced with big band stints with a number of iconic and legendary figures including Clark Terry, Cab Calloway, Buddy Rich, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Mel Lewis. Around that time he also performed and toured with Slide Hampton’s “World of Trombones.” Later, Herwig would work for a number of years with the Frank Sinatra Orchestra. Other important early associations included a stay with bandleader Mario Bauza’s seminal Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, an association that would launch his mastery of the Latin and Latin Jazz genres.
As his stock rose in the New York area, he developed associations with a virtual Who’s Who of jazz. Herwig worked with a number of small, mid-sized and large ensembles while continuing to forge a name as a leader. Jazz elders he had already worked with included Red Garland, Dave Liebman and Max Roach; at the same time he attracted Danilo Pérez and David Sanchez in his groups. Herwig’s first release With Every Breath (Ken) arrived in 1987; during the course of the next 10 years he released four additional recordings for the same label.
During the mid-1980s he began a long association with Eddie Palmieri, a musical journey that continues to this day. Herwig also performed regularly as a member of Paquito D’Rivera’s Quintet and larger ensembles such as the Dizzy Gillespie inspired United Nation Orchestra. He also continues his now long-standing affiliation with the Mingus Big Band, where he has served as musical director and contributed as arranger, most notably on the 2008 GRAMMY-nominated Live at the Tokyo Blue Note (Sunnyside).