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.

Bags packed for Chile: Note the blue p-bone mini peeking out from my backpack.

Bags packed for Chile, with a p-bone mini peeking out from my backpack.

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!

Meeting Charlie Parker, the newest member of the Cerda family

With Charlie Parker, newest member of the Cerda family

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 RecabarrenSebastián 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:

See their page on the label’s site here. You can buy the music through iTunes here.

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!

About Alex Rodríguez

Writer, Organizer, Trombonist
This entry was posted in Chile, Ethnomusicology, Links. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Lubricity Is Back … In Santiago, Chile

  1. ryshpanmusic says:

    I had the great pleasure of meeting and playing with bassist Diego Abello from Jazzantiago recently. He hipped us all to a bunch of great musicians from Santiago (mostly students of electric bass wizard Cristian Galves). I look forward to reading your posts from the field and discovering musicians that don’t seem to crack the American/Euro-centric jazz press.

    • arodjazz says:

      Thanks! Great to see that you’re still tuned in after all this time. And yes, Galvez is one of the heavies here. Discos Pendiente is definitely the easiest place to start in terms of finding new music, if you’re curious to keep poking around.

  2. gsrbrts2 says:

    Glad to know that Lubricity resuscitated, it has been a while. Look forward to frequent posts apprising us of your experiences down in Chile.

    Roberto Barahona

  3. Jazz.Ru says:

    I had a privilege to welcome Raimundo Santander on the stage with his Orquesta Del Viento at the Usadba.Jazz festival in Moscow a few years ago… which turned out to be the first show of his 20-days-long tour across the vast belly of Mother Russia. CM

  4. Might be useful to compile a list with contact info for prominent musicians, venues, record labels, radio stations/programmers and critics/jazz journalists there.

  5. nickfinzer says:

    Can’t wait to see what you’re up to Alex! I’d be curious to know the differences in approach to learning the music… Or if it’s the same as kids do here in the states! Good luck and have fun!

    • arodjazz says:

      Hey Nick, great to hear from you. Just like in the States, there are a variety of pathways into the music for young musicians here, and they also have access to much of the same instructional materials, etc. There are two universities that have been training popular musicians for years, which draw heavily on the Aebersold approach that is familiar to many jazz schools in the US. There are also some families, such as the Aldanas, that have been devoted to popular music-making for at least two generations. Also, there has been a long-running high school big band, Conchali Big Band, that has been a training ground for many of today’s top musicians here.

      One thing that I have noticed that is different is that Chileans imagine themselves in relationship to the spiritual essence and the history of the music in a different way than students do in the US. I haven’t done enough investigation to speak authoritatively on that just yet, but it’s definitely on my mind …

  6. Kay Young says:

    Hi Alex, I’m interested in hearing what you are doing! I’ll learn about jazz in Chile too.
    Aunt Kay

  7. Lou Paparozzi says:

    Hi Alex! I met Marina today at a UCLA Mindfulness workshop and she told me about you and your Jazz and South America activities. I’m a 68 year old guy who moved to SoCal two years ago from New Jersey and I’m a Jazz & Blues fan. I also love New Orleans Brass Band and other New Orleans music as well as Brazilian music which is why I hope to visit there some day as well as Buenos Aires where my wife has long lost relatives we hope to find.

    Anyway I was impressed reading your blog and wish you much success. Very cool work you are doing. Love to hear you play when you are back in LA.

    Enjoy, Lou Paparozzi

  8. Greg Jor says:

    Hi Alex. Hello from Australia! I’ll be in Santiago in a week and a half.


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