Report From Monterrey

In last week’s post I discussed how the end of the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Appreciation Month was marked by the celebration of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, which was hosted in Istanbul this year, but that the day was also celebrated in cities around the world. I mentioned my own performance with Cynthia Hilts’s Lyric Fury at Somethin’ Jazz Club in New York, a city where just about every day is International Jazz Day. A quick look down the maw of YouTube reveals celebrations in Culj-Napoca, Romania, Yerevan, Armenia, Gwang Shu, Korea, and Faro, Portugal. A more complete list of events is available at the IJD website.

One listed event caught my eye because it took place in Monterrey, Mexico, which is where I’m writing this and will be playing at the XI Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva hosted by Conarte. What surprises me isn’t that the event I’m playing in (I’m filling in for bassist John Lindberg, who had to tend to a family emergency) isn’t mentioned in the IJD list, but that what’s listed is a guitar master class, held at the Facultad de Música at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, followed by a panel discussion, “Is there original jazz in Monterrey or original rehash?,” and a jam session.

As the name suggests, this is the eleventh year that Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva has been held in Monterrey. It is the brainchild of Omar Tamez, the youngest child of Nicandro Tamez, a composer-educator-philosopher who developed his own musical language and notation before he succumbed to cancer in the 1980s and also instilled a passion for music in his other children, Teresa and Emilio, who play piano and percussion, respectively. (Emilio is playing in this year’s Encuentro along with Omar.) It is a testament to how pernicious the power of politics is in music that an annually held jazz international festival goes ignored by the founders of International Jazz Day.

And, as I mentioned last week, this year’s lineup includes artists from Germany (via the U.S.), France, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States. Two of this year’s featured artists are Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso. Vibraphonist-pianist-composer Berger moved to America from Germany in 1966 and, with Sertso and Ornette Coleman, founded a school for jazz, the Creative Music Studio, in Woodstock, New York, in 1972. He is tireless as an organizer, composer, and arranger. His work has been featured at the Kool Jazz Festival and by the West German Radio Orchestra (where he was a guest conductor). He has recorded with John McLaughlin, Carla Bley, and Lee Konitz. He has partnered with Bill Laswell as an arranger for the likes of Jeff Buckley, Natalie Merchant, and Angélique Kidjo. Sertso is a singer who improvises words as well as melodies. Her approach is unique in its conception as well as its execution and weaves through the fabric of instruments she works with. She is as comfortable performing straight-ahead jazz as she is with free improvisation and has worked with the likes of Eric Dolphy, Nana Vasconcelos, Don Cherry (MultiKulti), and Steve Lacy.

I first heard guitarist Marc Ducret in Paris in 1994 playing at the Rising Sun. His masterful approach to the instrument is inclusive of the jazz traditions that shape the work of guitarists like Ed Cherry and John Scoffield, as well as the electronic effects that inform the work of Bill Frisell and Bruce Arnold. Since leaving Copenhagen, he considers himself a resident of the world with no permanent address, although he conducts his business as a French citizen. It is a thrill to finally play with Marc, as well as the phenomenal flutist Wilfreido Terrazas, who hails from Mexico City. He is a cross-discipline musician who is as comfortable improvising as he is playing the works of Boulez. Baritone saxophonist Sofia Zumbado has just recently begun crossing the line from “legitimate” music to improvisation. She was at last year’s Encuentro as part of saxophone manufacturer and repairman Roberto Romero’s display booth. The participation of Romero (who owns Roberto’s Winds in Mexico City and New York) in Encuentro now includes a competition for young saxophonists with one of his company’s tenor saxophones as first prize. Sofia, who was demonstrating Romero’s instruments, has a ten-year plan to learn the language of jazz improvisation as well as she has learned the language of free-improvisation. No doubt she will be a voice to reckon with. Drummer-percussionist-composer Harvey Sorgen rounds out this year’s line-up. He is best known for his work with guitar legend Jorma Kaukonen and Hot Tuna. However, his range of expression goes far beyond any one style of music. His musical partnerships include trumpeter extraordinaire Herb Robertson, pianist David Lopato, and bassist Joe Fonda (who is this year’s Encuentro poster child).

Although all of the participants are asked to bring their own music to perform, improvisation is the key to Omar’s Encuentro series. So far, the music rehearsed includes a piece from Sorgen’s graphically notated Density-Dynamics compositions, a few of my tunes—“I Saw A Bear,” “The Carpenter,” and “Duh, Kidz” —and an extended composition of Berger’s No Man Is An Island, which he first recorded in 1999; but our first night was dedicated to free improvisation.

I couldn’t find anything about the previously mentioned panel discussion in the university’s archives, so I plan to talk to Omar about this and see if there’s a chance to include his Encuentro Internacional series into the International Jazz Day listings next year, although he’s doing pretty well so far on his own!

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