Category Archives: Interviews

César Bauvallet’s Cuban Jazz Project at the New Mexican Jazz Festival

César Bauvallet, with Kanoa Kaluhiwa in background

Trombonist, sonero, percussionist, composer, and arranger César Bauvallet spent his childhood immersed in the sones, danzones, boleros, and cha-cha-chas of Cuba’s Golden Era of Music—a veritable explosion of traditional music whose romance and rhythms found their way into jazz and popular music around the world. Bauvallet’s father, Daniel, was at the heart of that era. His performances as a singer and drummer in Havana nightclubs helped to define the essence of the music for his own and later generations, and he schooled his gifted children in Cuban musical traditions. Bauvallet refined his musical gifts at Havana’s famed Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, from which he graduated summa cum laude, and went on to have a very successful career in Cuba, traveling around the world and playing his roots.

Twenty-five years ago, on tour with his band in Mexico, Bauvallet and his brother defected, walking across the bridge to El Paso. Bauvallet settled in Albuquerque, where he introduced a new group, Son Como Son, playing a Cuban style of salsa entirely new to the city. The members of this nine-piece band, drawn from the local population, were remorselessly schooled by Bauvallet in the traditions that were second nature to him, whom they call “The Source,” a man as strict as he is generous. Twenty-three years later, Son Como Son still packs every venue with its high-energy shows, and Bauvallet has branched out into other projects, such as Tradiciones, a smaller band that he created to celebrate and preserve the sumptuously rhythmic and romantic dance music of Cuba.

For the New Mexico Jazz Festival, Bauvallet has put together a band that draws on the diverse musical experiences of its members—pianist Jim Ahrend, tenor saxophonist Kanoa Kaluhiwa, bassist Janet Harman (Bauvallet’s wife), bongosero Victor Rodríguez, drummer Danilo Bauvallet (the son of Bauvallet and Harman), and special guest and Bauvallet’s longtime friend conguero Raciel Tortoló from Team Havana. They’ll be appearing at the Outpost on Sunday evening, July 23.

I recently spoke with Bauvallet about the project, and the following excerpts from our conversation touch on the genesis of the project, the band members, his apprenticeship in Cuba as an arranger, and his objective for the evening. Continue reading

Doug Lawrence and Cobb’s Mob Pay Tribute to Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon, in the words of the great jazz writer, editor, producer, and archivist Dan Morgenstern, “is of course the man who first created an authentic bebop style on the tenor saxophone.” That style influenced in one way or another just about every saxophonist who came after, and some of them—most notably John Coltrane—influenced Gordon in turn. That tells you something about the man’s dedication to his art.

On Saturday, July 15, tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence, longtime lead tenor in the Count Basie Orchestra, will join Cobb’s Mob, a trio led by NEA Jazz Master drummer Jimmy Cobb, with bassist John Webber and pianist John Campbell, for a tribute concert copresented by the New Mexico Jazz Festival and the New Mexico Jazz Workshop. The festival will also be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Bertrand Tavernier’s film Round Midnight, in which Gordon plays a fictional tenorist named Dale Turner, loosely based on saxophonist Lester Young and pianist Bud Powell. The performance earned him an Oscar nomination. The free showing, on Sunday, July 16, will be followed by an interview with Gordon’s widow, Maxine Gordon, conducted by Steve Feld.

I had a chance to chat with Lawrence, a man as sweet as he is hip, and the following excerpts from our conversation touch on the genesis of the upcoming gig, the honor of playing with Jimmy Cobb, and Gordon’s influence on Lawrence. Continue reading

Myra Melford: The Snowy Egret Interview

Myra Melford at the piano. Photo by Michael Wilson.

Myra Melford at the piano. Photo by Michael Wilson.

Pianist/composer and Guggenheim fellow Myra Melford’s latest instrumental project, Snowy Egret (Enja/Yellowbird) (reviewed here), was inspired by the late Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy. In response to the Uruguayan author’s masterpiece, Melford created a multimedia piece, Language of Dreams, which she then distilled into 10 instrumental tracks, featuring Ron Miles (trumpet), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). This week, she is bringing that top-drawer collection of musicians to the Outpost, and I had the
opportunity to speak with her about the music and related topics. She has a ready laugh and a rushing need to answer questions fully and completely—in an almost girlish speaking voice that, like her music, carries a permanent sense of wonder. Continue reading