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.

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