So this is finally happening ... last week, I spoke with three beloved Chilean jazz co-conspirators to confirm their participation in making my debut album, Somewhere Else!!!! / ¡¡¡¡En Otro Lugar!!!!
Yes, that's a lot of exclamation points—that flourish is inspired by one of my musical heroes, Ornette Coleman, whose 1958 debut album Something Else!!!! opened new doors to what music could sound like.
This is something I've known that I needed to do ever since my last visit to Chile in 2016, when I performed a set of Coleman tunes interspersed with original compositions at a house concert in Santiago. Ever since my first visit to Chile in 2005, I've been aware that something about my relationship to the music, how it speaks through me and my horn, has found resonance with Chilean musicians. My first gigs as a young professional musician came during that trip, when I performed regularly with Los Andes Big Band.
Navigating this geographical conundrum has always required creativity—after my son was born in the fall of 2019, my wife and I bought plane tickets to return for a visit ... in April 2020. You know what happened next—we still haven't used those tickets. I've learned a lot over the past two years about how to build community and connection through the internet, but my connection to the music has felt as far away as the Araucanía. This project is my way back to this part of myself—this faraway home that is, paradoxically, always along for the ride with me as well.
One of the best ways to stay connected with this energy in the meantime has been to follow the musical paths of Chilean jazz contemporaries. I began this habit in earnest during my last long interregnum between visits to Chile, from 2006-2013. Having heard about a new cohort of millenials who were tearing it up at jam sessions and starting to record, I began to tune in. Much of that activity began to coalesce around a record label, Discos Pendiente, which I featured in a write-up for NPR Music in 2012 (wow, has it really been a decade?!)
Meet the band
Alright, without further ado ... I'm delighted and humbled to share a bit about the three brilliant musicians who will be joining me in this experiment: bassist Pablo Menares, drummer Rodrigo Recabarren, and guitarist Nicolás Vera.
I first met Pablo in 2013, when the Chilean jazz quintet La Resistencia was launching their self-titled first album at the Santiago jazz club Thelonious. He was part of the first wave of Chilean millenial jazz phenoms to move to the United States, and he has lived in New York City now for over a decade. He's been an incredibly busy mainstay on the New York scene since then, most prominently as the first-call bassist for Melissa Aldana, another young Chilean who has found success in the North American jazz world. (Check him out on their recent Blue Note debut, 12 Stars!) Pablo also unwittingly penned the title track to this album, "En Otro Lugar" (minus the exclamation points), available here:
Rodrigo and I also connected at Thelonious, when he was performing at the club with his jazz fusion duo project, Peregrinos. We got to chatting afterwards, which led to the seeds of our collaboration on the 2016 house concert mentioned above. Rodrigo has a sound on the drumset unlike any other I've experienced, informed by deep study in the jazz tradition as well as extensive explorations of Chilean rock and experimental forms. Since the pandemic, he's also been doing some very cool work making drum tracks for videos. Here's a great live album with the quartet Beekman, which also features Pablo's stellar bass work:
Nico, the one of this trio still based in Santiago, has been a key organizer and central figure in the efflorescence of the city's jazz scene over the past two decades. The guitarist and composer has had a hand in so much of my favorite music that has come out of that part of the world for as long as I've been paying attention. We first played together at Thelonious in 2013 and have collaborated occasionally since then—most recently, when my grandfather passed away and he provided the guitar backing track for my rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that my grandmother requested for the funeral. I'm especially partial to his most recent trio record, Nómada, which also features Pablo alongside drummer Felix Lecaros—released just before my son (who shares Nico's first name) was born, this album was the soundtrack for my first days as a father:
I'm thrilled to embark on this creative journey with these three incredible co-conspirators and look forward to sharing more here as it unfolds. To hear exclusive pre-release audio and notes on the project, please consider supporting me on Ampled, the platform cooperative that supports independent musicians!