A 30-year veteran of New York’s rich Latin jazz scene, trombonist-composer Noah Bless has immersed himself in Afro-Cuban music, soaking up mambo and rhumba while getting the clave ingrained into his DNA.
A graduate of internationally renowned Cincinnati Conservatory, with a master’s degree in jazz from the Manhattan School of Music, Bless didn’t intend on pursuing this Latin jazz path when he arrived in the Big Apple in 1990.
Indeed, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra was more in his personal wheelhouse. But as all working musicians know, especially those fresh arrivals to the city looking for a means to pay their rent, you go where the gigs are.
“There were a ton of clubs in New York at that time, and if you were a brass player and you could read music, you could do Latin gigs.”
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Noah Bless New York Strong - Latin Jazz
Bless found himself playing for dancers at the fabled Club Broadway on 96th & Broadway. “At that time, I was living on the Upper West Side on 114th Street and I used to walk down to that gig,” he recalled.
He persisted on the salsa scene and by 1992 was touring the world with Afro-Cuban jazz pioneer Mario Bauza, ultimately appearing on the maestro’s 1993 release, My Time Is Now.
He subsequently put in time with salsa stars Celia Cruz, Oscar D’Leon and La India, Latin jazz innovator Eddie Palmieri, arranger-conductor Ray Santos, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Bless is now confident in saying, “I consider myself a salsa trombone player after all these years.” And as such, he is part of potent lineage that goes from Willie Colón to Barry Rogers (with Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta), Conrad Herwig (with Palmieri’s La Perfecta II), Luis Bonilla, Jimmy Bosch and his contemporary Chris Washburne.