Remembering My 21st Birthday in Buenos Aires

Andes

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. 

Part of what made the exercise such a joy, however, was what had just happened the night before. And that means starting the story from the beginning, when I first traveled to Argentina in August 2005 for the Trombonanza Trombone Festival. I took the bus from Santiago to Santa Fe, Argentina, and remember being absolutely blown away by the massive scale of the Andes mountains, enough that I even remembered to take the photo that appears at the top of this post.

At Trombonanza, I met the four young Buenos Aires-based trombonists behind Cuatro Varas, a trombone quartet that played party music. I spent much of the week with Santiago Castellani and Joaquin de Francisco swapping JJ Johnson licks, studying with the Paraguayan jazz trombone master Remigio Pereira Pintos, and learning about their musical lives in Buenos Aires. Needless to say, we had a blast.

santijames

Alex, Santiago, and James in Buenos Aires

They extended the invitation for me to come visit Buenos Aires, and so a few months later I bought myself a gift for my 21st birthday: a plane ticket. I spent a week in the city exploring with my new trombonist compatriots, going out to listen to a lot of jazz, and burning much of Santi’s impressive CD library onto my laptop. It turned out that my arrival coincided closely with that of another young American jazz musician, James Suggs, who had just moved to Argentina.

So we spent the eve of my 21st birthday on the balcony of Santi’s apartment in the Palermo neighborhood drinking red wine and grilling steak. After polishing off a bottle between the three of us, well after midnight and thus into my birthday proper, James insisted on taking me out to introduce me to the Argentinean alcoholic beverage of choice, fernet. I remember stumbling around the barrio for awhile, sharing stories with James about our odd combinations of musical aspirations and cross-hemispheric adventures. Good times.

Paula, Santi, and Alex

Paula, Santi, and Alex

I can’t believe that this was all ten years ago … and that I had Facebook then! But I know it must be true, because these pictures are right there on my timeline—here’s another one of me and my excellent hosts, Santiago and his wife Paula. Gracias Santi y Paula por ser tan buenos anfitrones! It was an unforgettable birthday, and a reminder of how quickly our shared love of jazz could bring us together to make it happen.

Thank you again, everyone, for the birthday love. It’s a wonderful thing to feel the warmth coming in from all over the world today.

About arodjazz

Writer, trombonist, and PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology exploring the complexity of today's jazz world
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