Well, folks: I made it to Santiago. As longtime readers of this blog know, Chile’s jazz scene has already taught me so much about what it means to make music in the world today—and that jazz is thriving all over the world. Last month, I began what will be eight months of ethnographic fieldwork here, inspired by Chile’s jazz lovers to learn more about why people still make jazz happen today, and how that helps us lead meaningful lives.
Before I left for Santiago, I decided that part of this fieldwork would involve keeping my English-speaking friends, family, and fellow jazz lovers hip to what I am up to down here during these next few months. The most obvious way to do this, of course, was to start blogging again.
I’ll admit that writing this post—after an 18-month hiatus—has been daunting. I don’t really know who reads jazz blogs anymore; the troubling trends that I saw taking place four years ago in the jazz writing world seem to have continued. I have no idea how all of the lessons I have taken in during my studies in Los Angeles will manifest in my writing now. And yet despite those uncertainties, I know that there will be plenty to write about during these next few months—so, here goes anyway!
Most of my time in Santiago has been spent between two places: the jazz club Thelonious, Lugar de Jazz (pictured above) and the quiet home of the Cerda family in Peñaflor, just outside of Santiago. Jorge and Santiago Cerda were two of my closest mentors and collaborators during my first stay here in Chile ten years ago. Santiago is the founder of the Los Andes Big Band, and Jorge is the principal trombonist in the Orquestra Sinfónica de Chile, one of the country’s top orchestras. (He’s a killer big band lead player, to boot.) When I reconnected with them at Jorge’s birthday celebration just two days after my arrival, Santiago offered for me to stay with them while I look for more permanent housing in the city. This has been a quiet place to rest, read, hang with family pets like Charlie Parker (pictured, right) while working to get my trombone chops back into shape. One of the highlights of this place is that practice studio in the back yard looks out into a beautiful garden. Now that’s what I call woodshedding!
At Thelonious, I have been able to attend about 2-3 shows per week, including the regular weekly jam sessions on Wednesdays. Last week, I brought my horn for the first time, and enjoyed sitting in on “Doxy” and “All Blues.” I’ve also had the pleasure of listening to some truly fantastic music by some of Santiago’s most creative jazz innovators: guitarist Diego Reidemann led a trio on my first night there, and I have also taken in sets by Raimundo Santander, Rodrigo Recabarren, Sebastián Castro, Diego Urbano, Agustin Moya, Cristian Gallardo’s CRISIS, and Pancho Molina. Rodrigo Espinoza, who played bass on my gig there in 2013, seems to be laying it down for practically every group I hear. This week, I look forward to catching him again, this time with trumpeter Sebastián Jordan’s bebop quintet, as they release their new CD Trapecista.
If you’re not familiar with this music, follow the links above! Lots of great stuff is happening here. I’m sure that I’ll have a lot more to say about it as time goes on. For an even broader view, check out the record label Discos Pendiente, whose catalog represents much of the best work being done in the country over the past five years. For example, here’s a video (shot at Thelonious) from the duo Peregrinos, which consists of guitarist Raimundo Santander and Rodrigo Recabarren:
I’ll close this post with a request: whether you’ve been reading this blog for a long time or this is your first visit, I would love for you to leave a comment below. Do you have any questions for me about my experiences so far in Chile? Are there any lingering curiosities about the jazz world here that I could address in future posts? Even if you don’t have a question or suggestion, even just a simple “hello” will help me have a bit more of a sense of who’s still reading after this long hiatus. Thank you so much for being a part of this project!