Where In The World Am I?


Portrait of a native inhabitant of Novosibirsk, Siberia

Sending a big, heartfelt thanks to everyone who reached out to say happy birthday yesterday. I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from friends and family recently, including something to the effect of “Well, I don’t know where in the world you are right now …”

So to clarify: I’m in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Novosibirsk is Russia’s third-largest city, located in the geographical center of the Russian Federation, north of Kazakhstan. Yes, it’s cold here—snow started falling shortly before we arrived, in mid-October. It’s also an interesting cosmopolitan place where my listening activities have brought me into contact with people from all over the world, for example: Uzbekistan, Japan, Germany, France, and Cuba.

If you’re curious about where else I’ve been in the past year, I’ve created this handy map for your perusal: http://arcg.is/2dYmTnr. In total, I’ve visited about 23 cities (and 12 jazz clubs) in 9 countries on 4 continents! Needless to say, I’m quite worn out from all the traveling, but incredibly grateful for what I’ve learned along the way. I had entered into this year with the intention of sharing more about it on this blog, but alas, that aspiration hasn’t come to pass. I did want to post this update, though, to say thank you to everyone who I have met!


Alex in Novosibirsk

I’ll be here until this Monday, when I’ll begin the long journey back to the United States. I look forward to seeing my ethnomusicology friends at the Society for Ethnomusicology Conference in Washington, DC, from November 10-13. I’ll be helping with the Improvisation Section’s roundtable event on Thursday evening, and then reuniting with my Conn tenor trombone (which has been staying in DC with my cousin since June) to play with the SEM Orchestra on Friday night.

Then, I will be back in New York City for a week, from November 15-21. New York friends, I hope to see you there! After that, Marina and I return to Portland, Oregon, where we’ll be settling in for the next year while I write my dissertation. After 13 years away from the city where I grew up, this seems like just the right time to be coming home. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time listening to KMHD and otherwise digging into what the local jazz scene has to offer.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make my 32nd year on Planet Earth an unforgettable and transformative one!

Posted in Ethnomusicology, Links | 2 Comments

Be There In Spirit For My First Performance of 2016

low fi concert jan 26Update: Thanks to everyone for being a part of this experiment! I wrote about the experience for the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board, which also includes a live recording of one of the songs we recorded. Click here to check it out!

Here’s the original post I wrote to announce the event:

So this is really happening! I’ll be performing this Tuesday, 26 January at a house concert with four Chilean musicians. My set will focus on the music of Ornette Coleman and also include a pair of my own Ornette-inspired compositions.

You can read below the fold for more about why we’re putting this event together. But before you do, please consider attending the event! Whether or not you’re in Chile, you can be there in spirit–here’s how:

First, buy a ticket at the low-fi.world website. At the concert, we will acknowledge your presence and support during the show. Afterwards, you’ll receive a high-quality recording, including your glorious shout-out, as a token of gratitude. Easy!

Buy your ticket here.

If you can afford to contribute more, please consider purchasing multiple tickets. This also allows us to make sure that those who do attend in person can contribute to the degree that they are financially able. This will also assure that the artists are all paid a fair wage for their work in bringing this music into being. Thank you for supporting this work and I hope you can be there with us!

OK, so a little bit more of the story behind this … Continue reading

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Interview: Rudresh Mahanthappa at Providencia Jazz Festival


Rudresh chile crop

Left to right: Matt Mitchell, Francois Moutin, Rudy Royston, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Adam O’Farrill. Photo by Gabriel Valenzuela, Papeles de Jazz.

Fresh off another round of critical praise for his 2015 album Bird Calls, Rudresh Mahanthappa and his quintet brought their assertive virtuosity to the Providencia Jazz Festival in Santiago, Chile last night. The large outdoor festival was free this year for the first time in over a decade, and the venue sold out days in advance. I managed to catch up with the alto saxophonist in the morning before his performance yesterday. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:  Continue reading

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Interview: Branford Marsalis at San Bernardo Jazz Fest

Branford Marsalis and his quartet headlined the San Bernardo Jazz Fest in November 2014

Branford Marsalis and his quartet headlined the San Bernardo Jazz Fest in November 2015

Branford Marsalis is not known to mince words. So when the upstart Chilean jazz magazine Papeles de Jazz invited me to interview him, I know that he wouldn’t hesitate to share his first impressions of Chile in the midst of his first trip here. I managed to catch up with Marsalis after the gig, interviewing him in the band’s van on the way back to their hotel. The night before the concert, the quartet sat in with the Nicolas Vera Quartet at Thelonious—an event that I was very disappointed to have missed.

This is the original, lightly edited English transcript—the Spanish version will be published in the next edition of Papeles de Jazz later this year. (Para los que leen en castellano: esta entrevista se publicará en Papeles de Jazz en la proxima edición este año.) Continue reading

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A Jazz Band in Chile In 1917 @ Ethnomusicology Review

Arica postcard

The Word Jazz In The Jazz World

By Alex W. Rodriguez for the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board

I wrote about some preliminary research that I did for my Chilean fieldwork, which brought up a reference to a “jazz band” there in 1917! This piece gets at some of the challenges of what it means to talk about “jazz” from that period, when we don’t even know what the music actually sounded like.

Para mis lectores hispanohablantes, he incluido una traducción abajo. Muchísimas gracias a Fernando Ortiz de Urbina por su ayuda con la traducción:

Continue reading

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Listening Back To My Last Year In LA


Schoenberg Hall, my home base at UCLA for four years

Yesterday, I returned to Peñaflor after a brief return trip to Southern California, in which I spent a week with Marina selling our car and finalizing various other aspects of our life together in Los Angeles. I’m happy to report that we have arrived safely—and it is a thrill to have her along for the rest of my time in Chile.

The week-long trip also offered me a chance to reflect on leaving Los Angeles, and although I am incredibly grateful to be moving on to Santiago, it’s always a little sad to say goodbye. What became especially evident during the week—and this is somewhat of a cliché but I’ll say it anyway—is that what I will miss most is being around the tremendously musical, thoughtful, and motivated friends that I made during the past four years. Y’all know who you are: the work you’re doing is an inspiration and I can’t wait to read more about it soon. Curious readers can familiarize themselves to the work of Albert AghaGanavya DoraiswamyDeonte Harris, AJ KluthScott Linford, Alyssa MathiasEric J. Schmidt, Darci Sprengel, and Dave Wilson—just a few of the UCLA scholars I am proud to call friends—at the links above. Catching up with so many of them in such a condensed period of time deepened my appreciation for how much they have taught me.

The other thing that became clear is that a lot happened in the last year and a half of my time in LA, and since I haven’t been documenting it at my blog, I thought it might be a useful exercise to summarize it here, as I have done in previous posts after long episodes away from the blog. Continue reading

Posted in Education, Ethnomusicology, Jazz Journalism, Links | 2 Comments

Remembering My 21st Birthday in Buenos Aires


The Andes Mountains are massive.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to send birthday greetings—it has been a pleasure to receive them throughout the day.

Scrolling through all of your lovely messages on Facebook and email reminded me of the first day that I remember experiencing the joy of the e-birthday-greeting, when I celebrated my 21st birthday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had just started using Facebook that year, and distinctly remember sitting in an internet cafe, slightly hung over, basking in the well wishes from friends and family back home in the States.  Continue reading

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Lubricity Is Back … In Santiago, Chile

My new home: Thelonious, Lugar de Jazz

My new home: Thelonious, Lugar de Jazz

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. Continue reading

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Tigran Hamasyan Review @ LA Weekly

Photo by Alex W. Rodriguez

Tigran Hamasyan (center) and Sam Minaie (left) perform “Hov Arek”

Tigran Hamasyan — The Alex Theatre — 4-22-14

By Alex W. Rodriguez for LA Weekly West Coast Sound

This was my first concert review in a long time — and I had a lot of fun checking this out and putting the review together. Special thanks to my fellow concert attendees AJ Kluth and Alyssa Mathias for coming along and helping out. Also, thanks to Tigran Hamasyan both for the incredible music and for the website shout-out!

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I Know What I’ve Done Since Last Summer


Playing Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” to my beautiful bride Marina.
Photo by Greg Cohen

The last time I posted here, over six months ago, I wrote:

Next up: I’m flying to Chile on Thursday to start a month of fieldwork in South America. Wish me luck on the next step of this adventure—and let’s hope that it generates lots more writing in the near future!

I’ll say! But more than just writing, I have been incredibly fortunate to start this new chapter in my life with projects that incorporate many aspects of what I enjoy, including writing but also music, teaching, improvising, reading, making new friends, and—most important of all—the love of my life, Marina.  Continue reading

Posted in Chile, Education, Ethnomusicology, Jazz Journalism, Links, Trombonists | 5 Comments