When Bronx-born bassist Carlos Henriquez isn't working on new music with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, he's still bass-centric. Among his passions is collecting Ampeg Baby Basses, an electric upright used in Latin jazz, and he also restores double basses.
"I got my first [bass] from the church when I was with my mentor, Victor Vargas," he said. "At some point I've had six or seven just lying around. You can only play one at a time, so I started selling them."
The 19-year-veteran of Lincoln Center is also poised, at age 36, to release his first album as a bandleader, "The Bronx Pyramid," on Sept. 18.
If there's anything Henriquez wants you to know when listening to the record, it's that this project -- featuring performances by Ruben Blades, Ali Jackson and Pedrito Martinez -- mirrors his love of music, family and career.
"We're all pyramids. Life is a long process full of sacrifices, good and bad, that help us get to the top -- our final success," he said. "I want people to understand my life and relate in another way."
It's no surprise that Henriquez gravitated toward music from an early age. Growing up in the Betances Houses on 146th Street and Brooke Avenue in the Mott Haven area of The Bronx in the 1980s, a love for music, he recalled, was fostered by constant exposure from neighborhood block parties and festivals, his church band and parental support.
His late mother Nilda, father Jorge, 64, and brother, Jose, 44, regularly sought out area events and loved to see people of all ethnic backgrounds bond over playing live street music, Henriquez, now a husband and father of three boys -- Carlos Jr., 10; Alex, 8; and Joshua, 2 -- said.
"It was a very different time. There would be people of three different races just bonding over music. That's what I miss about growing up [in The Bronx] at that time," he said.
Henriquez started his career as a professional musician at the age of 14, playing in clubs with brother Jose. That same year, he had his first out-of-state performance in Denver, Colorado, with percussionist Johnny Ray.
"At that time, I was playing with 38- to 40-year-old men. I was always around them so, within the span of a year, I became a man," Henriquez said.
He was still a young man when he arrived at Lincoln Center. A graduate of LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the bassist joined the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the late 1980s.
Henriquez will perform several songs from his new record, which includes jazz with Latin rhythms, with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx on Sept. 12. For more information and ticketing, head to jazz.org.