Down, not out - Club de Jazz de Santiago

(Foto/Picture: Club de Jazz)

As far as I know, the most affected victim of the recent earthquake in the Chilean jazz scene was, luckily, not a person, but a building, albeit a very important one. The home of Club de Jazz de Santiago since 1980 (the Club itself was established in 1943) has been badly damaged and there were fears about its safety, so much so that the neighbours upstairs had to move.


Jazz in Chile: Contracuarteto

From our Northern-hemisphere point of view, the sheer existence of a Chilean jazz scene can be quite a surprise. If you come a little bit closer, the standard of playing of their latest generation of jazzmen, the so called "Generación '00", musicians born in or around 1980, is simply astonishing. These days, extraordinary technique is almost taken for granted. What is really surprising in Chile is the passion and devotion to the music displayed by these youngsters.

Contracuarteto is probably the clearest evidence of this. A pianoless, two-sax quartet conceived and organized by the eldest member, bass player Roberto Carlos Lecaros (b. 1978), they play with such proficiency and conviction that it's hard to believe they're 1) from Chile, 2) so young.

In the video above, taped on January 17-18, 2007 for the jazz_cl series, drummer Félix Lecaros (b. 1980) explains how they already had all the music ready before they recorded their first album, and how they decided to record it live (except two tracks) which makes it even more impressive.

The frontline looks like a reunion of complementary opposites: while altoist (and flutist) Cristián Gallardo (b. 1983) appears to be rather subdued, expansive tenor sax Andrés Pérez (b. 1983) does most of the talk. He explains how their first CD (recorded in late 2006, a second is about to be recorded as I write this) has served the purpose of preserving a sound, a concept, and idea. He also goes on about the almost ESP communication among the members of the band, whose musicianship describes, in a comment betraying his age, as up to a "Power Ranger" standard. Pérez points out the challenges of a pianoless band, how harmonies are implied by the saxes and especially the bass, and how, at least in Chile, their line-up is quite unique.

As for the music, from 3:50 onwards they play "Bipolaridad" and, from 6:21 "Chasqui" (both can be listened to in their entirety at their MySpace page). The latter, a charming West-Coast-ish tune, was composed by Roberto, the bass player, who explains how he and his brother are expected to excel because of their surname. Then he tells how their father, Maestro Lecaros, who already ran his school of music, offered them to play an instrument, and how his brother Félix snatched the drums from under his nose. He adds that it was probably for the best, given his sibling's mastery as a drummer.

Whoever said jazz is dead... Maybe, like Stuart Nicholson proposed, it's only moved to a different address.


Jazz in Chile: Christian Gálvez

Christian Gálvez is another one of the prime movers and shakers of the Chilean jazz scene. At only 33 (by complete chance, today it's his birthday), this bass virtuoso has been around. Ten years ago, at age 23, he was awarded the national prize, "Altazor", to the best player in Chile. The other highlight of his career, as the tells in the video, happened in 2006, when fellow bassman Stanley Clarke snatched him as soon as he heard him, and took him around the world (you can see them both jamming the blues here, from 6:40 onwards, in a very long version of Clarke's "If This Bass Could Only Talk").

The clip above is part of the jazz_cl series, and in it Gálvez explains his work method (composing, forming a band, touring, recording, in that order). He also thinks that jazz musicians are the most proficient, for their technique, melodic and harmonic sense, arguing that they get all the session work. After some scenes at the recording studio and the live take of "Redentor", Gálvez appears in his car explaining how he toured with Clarke around the world and how he decided, after more than a year to go back to his family in Chile.


Jazz in Chile: Félix Lecaros

(Warning: this video is * louder * than normal.)

If you have watched the previous videos in this series, you'll have noticed the ubiquity of drummer Félix Lecaros. So far he's appeared with Quintessence, Contracuarteto, Nicolás Vera, Christian Gálvez, Cristián Cuturrufo, Jorge Díaz...

Lecaros is a member of a family with a long-standing presence in Chilean music. His father, Roberto, better known as Maestro Lecaros, is a renowned musician and indefatigable educator (a pioneer of jazz education in Chile at the helm of his Taller de Música Popular, Popular Music Workshop), while several other relatives play professionally. Félix's older brother, bass player and composer Roberto Carlos, is the other half of Contracuarteto's heartbeat.

Thanks to his astonishing proficiency and versatility (he was born in 1980, so he's not 30 quite yet), he's travelled quite a bit (South Korea, Mexico, Argentina, Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia and Spain), and has jammed and played with quite a few stars, such as Wynton Marsalis, Danilo Pérez, Bruce Barth, Mike Stern, Yellowjackets, Seamus Blake, Perico Sambeat, Bill Stewart and Kevin Hays, among many others. In 2007 he was invited to a drums clinic during Zildjan Day, along with Cindy Blackman and Oscar Giunta.

This video comes from a gig last year in Poland as part of Camila Meza's trio, with Pablo Menares on bass. Singer/guitarist Meza is another Chilean export, currently based in New York.



Just a quick break from the review of jazz in Chile to let Spanish-readers know that the dean of Spanish jazz radio, Juan Claudio Cifuentes, "el Cifu", has a blog, Cifujazz, which, as it's his wont, hasn't cared to publicize. At the moment his main outlet are the programmes he conducts at RNE, Spanish national radio, Jazz porque sí ("Jazz because", which funnily enough is not a word game in Spanish), and A todo jazz ("Jazz at full steam", or kind of).


Jazz in Chile: Jorge Díaz Trio

Jorge Díaz Trio:

Jorge Díaz: guitar,
Hugo Rojas: electric bass, and
Félix Lecaros: drums,

play "Huyendo justo a tiempo" ("Running away just in time"), recorded at Escuela Moderna de Música, Santiago, Chile, 2007.


After the earthquake (II)

More jazz from Chile.

Nicolás Vera: guitar,
Claudio Rubio: tenor sax,
Lautaro Quevedo: piano,
Pablo Menares: double bass, and
Félix Lecaros: drums,

play "Bellavista" (Nicolás Vera, 2007).

Recorded at the Musicámara room, in Universidad de Valparaíso (June 2008).

Part of the jazz_cl series.


Another brief introduction to jazz in Chile

(Second trailer, and beginning of Episode 1, of jazz_cl;
you can also watch it in Vimeo)

Roll call:

0:00 - Félix Lecaros (Quintessence): "Tony's Changes"
0:05 - Christian Gálvez Cuarteto: "Imaginario" (2008)
0:09 - Los Ogros del Swing: "El waltz de Harry" (2008)
0:14 - Nicolás Vera Quinteto: "Bellavista" (2007)
0:17 - Cristián Cuturrufo: "CF Blues" (2008)
0:20 - Contracuarteto: "Bipolaridad"
0:24 - Martin Joseph (p) & Pacific Ensamble: "Roundabout" (2008)
0:28 - Cristián Cuturrufo
0:31 - Quintessence (Lautaro Quevedo, piano): "Black Blues" (2008)
0:37 - Jorge Diaz Trío: "Tony" (2008)
0:42 - La Marraqueta: "Manso camino" (2005). Andrés Pollak (piano), Mauricio Rodríguez (guitar), Pablo Lecaros (bass), Pedro Greene (drums).
0:48 - Sexteto Hindemith 76: "Cueca del Cerro" (1976)
0:53 - Grupo Fusión: "Para toda la gente" (1975)
0:58 - Matías Pizarro: "Perro que ladra, no muerde" (1975)
1:02 - Patricio Ramírez (alto sax), Gonzalo Palma (piano): "Tranquilo" (2007)
1:05 - Mickey Mardones (alto sax): "Tangerine" (2007)
1:08 - Lucho Aránguiz (trumpet): "I never knew"
1:11 - Alfredo Espinoza (reeds, here on tenor sax)
1:15 - Roberto Lecaros (piano)
1:18 - Universidad Católica Big Band: "All Blues"
1:20 - Conchalí Big Band: "C-Jam Blues"
1:24 - (l to r:) Sergio Acevedo, Eugenio "Yuyo" Rengifo (trumpets)
1:27 - Panchito Cabrera: "Nuages"
1:30 - Ángel Parra: "Norma mía"
1:34 - Orquesta Huambaly: "Swingbaly" (1955)
1:41 - Juan Santiago Garrido: "La Estrella" (c. 1929)
1:45 - José Bohr: "I tenía un lunar" (c. 1926)
1:49 - Álvaro Menanteau (author, Historia del Jazz en Chile)
1:57 - Íñigo Díaz Barahona (jazz critic, El Mercurio, a. o.)
2:10 - [Quintessence plays "Imagen"]

See previous post for more links.


An introduction to Jazz in Chile... in 2'53"

(Trailer of jazz_cl; you can also watch it in Vimeo)

Roll call:

0:00 - Francisco Núñez (conductor, Quintessence)
0:07, 1:57 - Félix Lecaros (drums)
0:14 - Valentín Trujillo (pianist)
0:17 - Elsa Bolívar (Domingo Santa Cruz's wife)
0:21 - Paulette Bueras (trombone, Conchalí Big Band)
0:24 - Daniel Lencina (trumpet)
0:27 - Néstor Muñoz (tenor sax, Conchalí Big Band)
0:30 - Jaime Farfán, Orlando Avendaño, Alfonso Barrios (drums, drums and bass respectively with Nahuel Jazz Quartet)
0:34 - Cristián Cuturrufo (trumpet)
0:46, 1:38 - Domingo Santa Cruz (tuba)
0:52 - Claudio Bertoni (bongos)
1:06 - Álvaro Menanteau (author, Historia del Jazz en Chile)
1:12, 2:21 - Íñigo Díaz Barahona (jazz critic, El Mercurio, a. o.)
1:19, 1:35 - Carmelo Bustos (reedman and teacher)
1:25 - Lucho Aránguiz (trumpet)
1:28, 1:33 - José Luis "Lucho" Córdova (drums)
1:31 - Ángel Parra (guitar)
1:40 - Christian Gálvez (bass, producer)
1:47 - Claudia Acuña (singer)
1:52 - Contracuarteto (two-sax, pianoless quartet)
1:56 - Félix Lecaros (drums)
2:05 - Pablo Lecaros (bass)
2:12 - Quintessence ("mid" band)
2:43 - Andy Baeza (drums)

Quintessence play Federico Dannemann's "Tony's Changes", and they are (l to r when applicable):

Francisco Núñez (conductor); Sebastián Jordán, Jaime Navarrete (trumpets); Marcelo Maldonado (trombone); Cristián Gallardo (alto sax); Andrés Pérez, Agustín Moya (tenor sax); Diego Manuschevich (bass clarinet); Roberto Dañobeitía (electric guitar); Federico Dannemann (acoustic guitar); Rodrigo Galarce (bass); Félix Lecaros (drums).


After the earthquake

"La Vela", by Contracuarteto + Roberto Lecaros on piano.

Contracuarteto are Andrés Pérez on tenor sax, Cristián Gallardo (alto sax, not present), Roberto Carlos Lecaros on bass and Félix Lecaros on drums. The guest pianist is Roberto Lecaros, making the rhythm section here a father-and-sons affair.

The jazz scene in Chile is unexpectedly lively. Let's hope the earthquake doesn't affect it.

(Video from jazz_cl, a 4-DVD series devoted to the history of jazz in Chile.)

More on Chilean jazz soon...