Jazz Development in Mexico
"A History of Effort and Perseverance Against all Predictions"
by Roberto Aymes
Considering its neighboring relationship with the United States of America, one could easily assume that jazz must have been known in Mexico since the origins of this music. Indeed, factors such as the geographical closeness and the Hispanic heritage present in this music, added to the African, American, and European elements that originated it, seem to indicate that Mexico provided the perfect environment for a rapid development of the genre. Nevertheless, this has not been the case.
Mexican history since the late nineteenth century, and particularly since the early twentieth, has undergone many problems and conflicts -including a bloody civil war known as the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917.)
These conflicts brought in not only poverty and social instability, but also an adverse environment for cultural development, especially concerning the incorporation of foreign elements into Mexican culture, and, very particularly, regarding the U.S., for which a hostile atmosphere against the "Gringo" had arisen.
Jazz music, however, was performed in Mexico even before 1920. Period newspapers provide evidence of this. the cultural wealth. The early recordings, for example, can be traced back to the late 2Os. This fact alone is quite an achievement considering that, due the factors mentioned above, technology has always arrived late to Mexico.
For clarity of the reader 1 will divide the development of Jazz in Mexico into eight decades:
During this decade existed a worldwide tendency to get away from nineteenth century traditions. In Mexico's principal cities for instance, architecture broke the traditional models and produced one of the best and most complete forms of Art Deco. To this manifestation of everyday life, we must add the high level reached in other arts such as painting with its best representatives in the Muralist movement Music saw the raising of the Nationalist movement, which was counterbalanced with the multiple expressions of danced jazz genres of the period such as the Charleston, Foxtrot, and Blues as it was performed by small bands of no more than 12 musicians in the Tea Halls. From the cinematographers and from the bars (known in Mexico as Cantinas) we can rescue a few names of musicians and compositions of the period.
Very likely, Emilio D. Uranga was one of the composers dedicated to all these types of early jazz forms. From him we have the earliest recording of the Gerrnan conductor Efim Schachmeister with his "Jazz Symphonians." In this recording we can already listen to brief interventions -solos- by various instruments such as clarinet (E flat and B flat), violin, and cornet.
This recording, made in Mexico City in 1928-29, includes the compositions "Colores Vivos" and "Picoso pero Sabroso," where we can already feel a Mexican touch.
The existence of Big Bands -the greatest influence that jazz has had on popular music from this decade up to present times- caused an impact upon Mexican music and the Mexican orchestras of the period. As a matter of fact, Big Band music became a competitor of other popular genres such as Folk, Ranchera, Danzón, and even Bolero. Due to the poverty levels in which the country had lived since the beginning of the century, the economic depression did not hit Mexico as strongly as ¡t did in other places around the globe. At any rate, the development of the phonographic industry, as well as the invention of the sound film, favored the conditions for
jazz not only to reach all the major cities, but also to depart from the American style, and become more suitable to the Mexican life style.
The Swing became part of the daily life of the common citizen. lt was performed and danced in the poor neighborhoods and in the refined high society halls as well. During these years appeared the orchestras of Eduardo Vigil y Robles, Juan García Medeles, Ismael Diaz, Ray Montoya, Luis Márquez, Chuy Reyes, and Noe Fajardo. Towards the end of the decade the two most important bands were established: Juan Garcia Esquivel's and Luis Arcaraz's -the former, a well known orchestra in the United States up the 197Os, and the latter consider for over two decades as one of the top ten Big Bands in the world, and birthplace of the best soloists of Mexican jazz in the 5Os. Unfortunately, the old 78rpm recordings lack information regarding the musicians and soloists of these magnificent bands. With the outbreak of WWII American orchestras turned to Mexico as an alternative for international tours. This allowed Mexican jazz to be strengthened and revitalized with the performances of orchestras such as the Benny Goodman's, Dorsey Brother's, and Lex Baxter's among others.
This was a difficult time in the world. Mexico was affected by political problems as well as an economic depression. There were, however, aspirations for a new urban modernity (observable through the development of tourist centers such as Acapulco), which, added to the increasing interest for pre-Columbian cultures, would make Mexico to be known to the world. Within this context Mexican art gained an interesting international recognition, particularly, during the second half of the period. In the first years of the decade, and due to the American involvement in WWII, Mexican film industry reached the so-called Golden Age.
This allowed many composers -both Mexican and foreigners- to write jazz-influenced film music. Similarly, well-known arrangers became very active in both film and Big Band music.
Some of the orchestras achieved a high level of perfection becoming very popular in Dance Halls and Cabarets such as the "Tap-Room," where figures such as Artie Shaw and Harry James shone in those days. Other, very luxurious, halls, such as "Ciros" and "El Patio," witnessed the performances of international bands along with Mexican ones. This interaction allowed local musicians to improve their skills to such levels that many of them were engaged in international tours. Furthermore, orchestras such as the Luis Arcaraz's had had very successful international tours as well. lt is worth mentioning that during this period Mexican music was reaching audiences all over the globe with artists such as Consuelo Velázquez (composer of "Bésame Mucho,") Miguel Prado ("Duerme,") or Alberto "El Chamaco" Dominguez ("Perfidia,") among others whose compositions have been frequently interpreted by jazz musicians.
Musicians from the cities bordering the US were acquainted with the new trends in American Jazz such as the Be-Bop. A significant number of them immigrated to Mexico City hoping for better job opportunities. They brought along those new styles and, under their influence, Mexican bands developed a more jazzy sense of playing. Moreover, as soloists, these performers captivated the attention of a public that was eager to know more about this music. As a result, one may say that it was in the later part of the 194Os when Jazz truly emerged in Mexico.
Distinguished soloists are happily still remembered, among them: trombonists Gilberto Olvera and Ray Montoya, trumpet players Lupe López, Alfonso Rojo, Femando Aceves, and Tacho Mendoza, sax and clarinetists Cuco Valtierra Sr. and, above all, Héctor Hallal "El Árabe", who became the most important arranger of the orchestra of Arcaraz and one of the most important Mexican Jazz musicians until his death in 1993.
One of the most important chapters in Mexican Jazz is its contribution to the so-called Latin Jazz. lt appeared as a result of the experiences of a large number of musicians from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and from all over the Caribbean, who arrived in Mexico during this decade. Among them, the figure of Dámaso Pérez Prado distinguishes as one of the greatest contributors to Latin Jazz and Mambo - the latter so popular in those years. Pérez Prado wrote in Mexico many of the compositions in which jazz as a concept was highly popular, particularly in harmony and instrumentation.
The most important event in Mexican jazz came with the opening of the first Club -"Yuma"- in Mexico City in the late 194Os. The club followed a very successful radio program, known as "Jazz Session," which was produced by the journalist and jazz fan Roberto Ayala, and transmitted by the XEQ (one of the most popular radio stations of the time.) Under the initiative of two well-known Mexican actors, Manolo Calvo and Jorge Fábregas, the club opened in 1949 under the musical direction of the Cuban trumpeter Andrés Fort, "Merenguito"(became part of the 'Duke' Ellington's orchestra in the mid 50 s), and the drummer Richard Lemus, who eventually occupied a distinguished place among Mexican jazz musicians.
Doubtless this is the central period of Mexican jazz history. During this decade all the ingredients for the development of the genre were present: Jazz clubs, national and international festivals, a growing and demanding audience, and, above all, musicians interested in jazz. Nevertheless, Mexican jazz failed to become disseminated due to the lack of a successful record industry. Beginning in 1950, new jazz clubs, such as the "Astoria" opened. In this place the pianist Pablito Jaimes, as well as drummer Leo Acosta and the sax and flute player Primitivo Ornelas, took their first steps. In 1952 there were at least four places for jazz in Mexico City. lt was precisely in one of these clubs, "Intimo," where the most important Mexican jazz musician in my opinion, the pianist and composer Mario Patron, emerged. During this decade he was one of the musicians with an international career (he had participated in the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island in 1954.) Patron died, in 1982, at age 47. Another important musician who also became known in the "Intimo" was the sax player Cuco Valtierra Jr. who along with Héctor Hallal "El Árabe" were considered the two most important arrangers of the decade.
Already in the mid 5Os the visits of figures like Gene Krupa, "Shorty" Rodgers, Frank Rosolino, Stan Kenton, and Louis Armstrong, positively stimulated our artists due to the interactive fashion of their performances. Jazz clubs continued to grow in number: 1955, for instance, saw the opening of the "Latino El 33," "El Eco." Within those clubs emerged the names of Tony Adame, Al Zúñiga, Humberto Cané, Tomás Rodríguez "La Negrita," Juan Ravelo (extraordinary baritone sax), Pepe Solís (very accomplished trumpet player who also performed the melophone and French horn with great agility and in a modern style). Around this time also appeared one of the best trumpet players that Mexican jazz has produced: Cecilio "Chilo" Morán (1930-1999) - considered by Wynton Marsalis as one of the greatest trumpet players. His fresh, new, accurate, and very Latin, musical idiom was the result of his experience as solo trumpet with the Pérez Prado's orchestra.
Through his career he encouraged jazz performance by giving opportunities to young musicians to develop their talents in his clubs such as the "Jazz Bar Astoria."
Another devotee to syncopated music was the pianist Roberto Pérez Vazquez. With his support new spaces for jazz, as well as the idea of jazz festivals, came to light. Unfortunately for jazz, he later turned exclusively to commercial music. lt is also worth mentioning a musician with a large and fruitful musical career in Mexico, drummer Tino Contreras. He arrived in Mexico City at the end of the 4Os and almost immediately became the drummer of the "Gran Orquesta de Luis Arcaraz." Years later Contreras became an advocate of new trends in Mexican jazz, and the first to represent Mexico in Europe with very successful results. He also engaged in tours to Greece and Turkey where he became acquainted with new rhythmic patterns that he later adopted into his own style. Along with Contreras, the double bassist Victor Ruíz Pazos (originally from the Veracruz coast) distinguished himself for his fine playing and enthusiastic support for this music.
For his commitment to the diffusion of jazz, journalist Roberto Ayala is considered the precursor of broadcasting and record production of this music in Mexico. In 1954 he produced the first formal jazz recording in the country. For this project he invited the trio of Marío Patrón (piano), Victor Ruíz Pazos (double bass) and Tino Contreras (drums). In addition to this group, he invited the quartet of Héctor Hallal (sax), Pablito Jaimes (piano) and Contreras and Pazos (drums and double bass respectively). Finally, Ayala organized a very interesting septet joined by the Mario Patron's trio; Héctor Hallal, Tomás Rodríguez, and Juan Ravelo (alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones;) and Pepe Solís (french horn), In this recording there were also several takes for a quartet integrated by the Patrón's trio and the very young trumpet player César Molina.
Unfortunately, all this material (comparable in quality to any other jazz recording in the world around this time) was not released until the late 196Os, and even then, it was a small and badly produced edition that did not live up to its potential. Nevertheless, a new historical re-issue, by the record label "Jazzcat," is forthcoming.
Jazz activities in Mexico had grown considerably towards the end of the 195Os. As a matter of fact this later part of the decade can be considered the most important period of our jazz. American musicians such as the guitar player Howard Roberts, vibraphonist Fred Tatman, sax player Eddie Shew, and bass player Max Cooper settled themselves in Mexico. Similarly, musicians from Jamaica, Canada, Brazil and Europe decided to stay in the country.
In 1958 two international festivals (held in the best concert halls) were established in Mexico. Likewise, in 1959 journalist José Luis Durán launched two new festivals of national character that continued to take place until the end of the 196Os. Furthermore, the radio program "Panorama del Jazz," appeared around this time. Its original producer was Juan López Moctezuma (another promoter and father of several generations of jazz followers). The program is still on the air ( 41 years), and since 1978 I have had the privilege of producing it.
At the beginning of this decade the jazz environment in Mexico looked unsurpassable. The economic boom, as well as the political stability that the country was undergoing, allowed the continuous visit of international musicians and bands, particularly from the US. Jazz clubs increased in number as well. Among the new ones that stood out was the "Cardini Intenacional," owned by a jazz enthusiast of Italian origin named Alex Cardini. With government sponsorship, Cardini would hire artists such as Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bud Shank, to perform in the major concert halls. Taking advantage of his position as impresario, he would take these artists to perform for a few nights in his own clubs, which was successful as well.
Another club, and perhaps the best remembered, was "Riguz". Here, virtually all the jazz stars, both national and international, performed. This was a time in which jazz became extremely popular in Mexico. Even on TV, where this music had never before been taken seriously, new spaces, including those for the younger audiences were opened for sporadic presentations. This highly influenced the generation to which I belong.
Among the new musicians whose names stood out were artists like: drummers Salvador Agüero, Alvaro López, Juan Ramón Sordo, Gonzalo González, and Félix Agüero; trumpet players Freddy Guzmán, Mario Contreras, Adolfo Sahagún, Ramón Flores, brothers Leo & Lázaro Muñíz, Victor Guzmán, Carlos García, and Roberto Medoza; pianists Félix de la Mora, Enrique Orozco, Pedro Plasencia, Toni Alemán, Enrique Nery, Juan José Calatayud, and Chucho Zarzosa (who already enjoyed an extensive musical trajectory when he came into jazz with his extraordinary hits); double bassists Carlos Macías, Pancho Becerra, Fernando Sandoval, Mario Ballina, José Luis Rivas, and Emesto Espinosa; sax players Rodolfo Sánchez, Adolfo Diaz, Mike Bravo, Chinto Mendoza, Esteban Favela, Armando Noriega, and the experienced Ramón Negrete. In other instruments distinguish the trombonists Jesús Aguirre, Enrique Sida, Mexican-American (former member of the Buddy Rich's band) Vicente "Vince" Diaz; and the guitarists Nicolás Martinez, Miguel Peña, Luis Agüero, and Fernando Diaz.
During this time there were only a few jazz orchestras. The most distinguished one was Leo Acosta's. As for vocalists, the names that were well known in Mexico at the time were: Hope Holle and Vin Morris (Americans), Katryn Georges (French), Monna Bell (Chilean) and Freddy Noriega (one of the best Mexican singers, and, incidentally, a great drummer and pianist).
At the beginning of the 196Os, concert halls opened their doors to jazz. It allowed this music, as it did in 1938 in New York City, to reach new audiences. This was an accomplishment of trumpet player "Chilo" Morán and his sextet.
However, the first steps toward this goal had been given a few months earlier by Cuban musician Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill and his orchestra in "El Palacio de Bellas Artes." O'Farrill, who had already written music , in the US for Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton, lived in Mexico City between 1957 and 1965. Here, with his all-Mexican band, he premiered several important compositions such as the Suite Azteca and his Sinfonía en Jazz.
On his own, drummer Tino Contreras participated in jazz festivals in the US such as the Evansville Festival in Indiana.
There, he played with his quartet and altrnated with giants such as "Duke" Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Dinah Washington, and Mel Tormè among others. This experience captured the attention, not only of audiences, but also from the critics, Gene Lees and Ena Nauton.
Nevertheless, not everything in the Mexican jazz world was a success. With the creation of the new music union, the attitude of the institution towards jazz was discouraging. The organization began a period of prejudice toward the foreigner that caused many important jazz musicians, who had settled in Mexico, to return to their places of origin. As a result, the possibilities of development for Mexican jazz were reduced considerable. Furthermore, the record industry now focused on rock music. lt caused many jazz clubs either go out of business or switch to rock. Perhaps the only positive sign of this trend was that many young rock musicians used rock to find their way into jazz as did, for example, Abraham Laboriel.
In spite of the decrease in jazz clubs during the second half of the decade, the visit of international figures increased in the principal cities of the country. This was a sign of the popularity that jazz still enjoyed. Among the artists that visited us during these years were: Art Blakey, Chico Hamllton, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, and "Dizzy" Gillespie among others. From Brazil came Antonio Carlos Jobim, Carlos Lira, and Hermeto Pascoal . At any rate, the visit of all these celebrities allowed Mexican musicians to interact with them either in concert halls or jazz clubs.
Of these performances it is worth mentioning the participation of the Edward K. "Duke" Ellington's orchestra in
September 1968. This was a difficult year for the world. Mexico, for instance, celebrated the Olympics while undergoing student repression. It was in one of "Duke" Ellington's performances that he premiered the "Mexican Suite," which unfortunately has not been performed since.
Though the acoustic principles of jazz, as well as the standard tunes, continue to be performed during this decade, Mexico did not escape from the influence of electronics in Jazz. With fewer clubs to present this music, but with better musical training, jazz musicians began to incorporate rock elements into Mexican music, producing with it a new idiom in their compositions. The first record label to produce jazz in Mexico -the N.C.L.- opened in the mid 7Os. Nevertheless the label only released about four albums with local groups and a few more with Cuban bands.
During this decade there were important groups that, contrary to past customs, have specific names: "Blue Note", "Morgana", "Méndez Trío", "Polifonías", "Cuarteto Mexicano de Jazz", "Sacbé." Fortunately, most of these bands left recordings that are now being re-issued.
It was customary during this period for the main hotels in the cities to have their own jazz bands. As far as jazz clubs were concerned, towards the end of the decade a new club, "New Orleans" -formerly "Musicafé 2"- opened its doors.
Some of the most important musicians of the jazz movement that emerged during this decade, including myself, had a better academic training. We have represented our country in different international engagements. What follows is an almost complete list of the most distinguished jazz musicians of the period:
Abraham Laboriel, who has had a very successful career in the US, played the electric bass and guitar during his time in Mexico. In one of his first bands -"Los Profetas"- he attempted to fuse elements of rock and jazz with ethnic music, producing a style of music of which he was a pioneer.
Eugenio Toussaint has been one of the most important composers and pianists up to the present. With his band "Sacbe," where his brothers Enrique and Fernando who play bass and drums respectively. He has produced notable hits included on radio during the 80's. Several of his compositions have appeared in editions of the "Real Book." He has also recorded for such labels as Trend and Discovery with very good distribution. Recently he has invited American jazzman Paul McCandless to join "Sacbe" in some concerts and a CD.
Cristobal López ( now new as Cris Lobo) is doubtless the best guitarist in the Mexican jazz world. His playing abilities are comparable to those of the best players in the world. He has played in the US and Europe and received very good comments from critics. Recently he was invited, by Abraham Laboriel, to play in Los Angeles, CA along with the fine pianist Enrique Nery with whom he frequently works. In his recordings López has demonstrated great abilities as a composer as well.
Miguel Salas (1 951-1997) was a versatile pianist whose passion for jazz inspired him to develop a unique sound and a mixed style that combined Latin music with nuances of Mexican sounds. Although he did not leave many recordings some of them are now in the process of being compiled.
Alejandro Campos is one of the foremost Mexican sax players. Since the 197Os he has performed with all the major bands in the country; among them: "Blue Note", "Sacbe", "Astillero", ".Jade Visions", "Viva Fidel", etc... His great capacity as a performer has allowed him to be part of the best Big Bands of the last twenty years. Even though he has just recorded a couple of albums of his own, his playing can be appreciated in a large number of recordings.
Roberto Aymes: Although I am the one writing this history of jazz, 1 feel that due to my professional commitment to this music since 1974, and for my dedication for over 30 years of disseminating jazz on radio, TV, and printed media, not only in Mexico but also outside of its boundaries, I owe it to myself to include myself in this report.
During all these years Aymes has formed more than 10 well-known bands. He has also represented Mexico in festivals and recitals in the US and Canada. In the latter, he recently (1997) completed a several-month artistic residency in which he taught courses and was involved in recordings with artists such as Kenny Wheeler. Between 1979 and 1986, he frequently traveled to Europe -originally to Yugoslavia where he was involved in pedagogical activities, and later to the rest of the continent Among his many musical collaborations it is worth mentioning his collaboration in 1979 with the legendary trumpet player Chet Baker in Paris. Similarly, he has produced and directed important bands and jazz orchestras such as the "Festival Latino de New York" for which he commissioned works in the classical fashion. He has been a mentor for various generations of musicians; he himself has earned Master and Doctorate degrees from major universities and conservatories throughout the world. In 1996 he started his own record label as Musical Producer -"Jazzcat Records"- with which he has produced more than 20 albums (information on these records can be requested at electronic address: www.jazzcat.com.mx/catalogo.asp)
Other distinguished musicians from this decade are: pianist Alberto Zuckerman, who has had. performances outside the country; Francisco Téllez, founder in the 198Os of the first jazz department in the country; flutist and vibraphonist Nando Estevané, who left jazz in the 8Os; Memo Méndez Guiú, one of the first Mexicans to graduate from a jazz program in the US, currently dedicated to commercial rather than jazz piano. At this point, 1 would like to mention one of the most outstanding Mexican jazz pianists: Alejandro Corona, who impressed figures such as Bill Evans in one of his visits to Mexico. Corona has developed most of his career outside Mexico, particularly in Germany where he enjoys of a well-deserved reputation in the jazz world.
Among the various international figures that visited Mexico during this decade who deserve to be mentioned: the Bill Evans Trio (who came about three times), Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Modern Jazz Quartet, The L.A. Four, and many others. Fortunately for Mexican jazz, local artists shared the stages with these celebrities.
Upon suggestion of the great Austrian musician Friedrich Gulda, there was, towards the end of the decade, a performance of a new band -"Weather Report"- which caused a great amazement due to the style and concept of music that was presented.
It resulted in a true contribution to the genre. Another important performance during this decade was the one presented by the brilliant Charles Mingus on the occasion of the inauguration of the "Nezahualcóyotl Hall" in 1976 (this concert hall is considered one of the finest in the world and has witnessed performances of a large number of artists from all nationalities.)
lt is worth mentioning that Charles Mingus died in the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the beginning of 1979. He lived his final years in this beautiful little town which he loved so extensively.
This is one of the darkest epochs in Mexican Jazz history. Nevertheless, the creation of this music did not diminish during these years. This period was characterized by the organization of international festivals that had one performance.
Sponsors and producers became decreasingly interested in jazz. Only on a few occasions jazz musicians were invited to open performances. Thanks to the efforts of the producer Fernando Diez de Urdanivia (who until then had had a long trajectory in classical music) and myself, performances of great artists such as Woody Shaw, Dexter Gordon, Bobby Hutcherson, Chick Corea, The Heath Brothers, and many others were possible. Similarly, institutions such as the Universidad Nacional, Bellas Artes, Embassy of the United States, the Gothe Institute, Embassy of France, etc., sponsored the performances in Mexico of jazz bands and soloists. These activities allowed both audiences and musicians, to have a wider vision of the international jazz panorama.
Among the artists that strengthened their careers during this decade are: the outstanding pianist Héctor Infanzón founder of the band "Antropoleo," keyboardist Gerardo Bátiz, the fine double bassist Agustín Bemal, the ethno-fusion band "Astillero," the versatile drummer Tony Cárdenas, the band Montage, guitarist Eduardo Piastro, the band "Tierra Firme", sax player Remy Alvarez, and the extraordinary and experienced drummer Salvador Merchand - who, in addition to recording with almost every Mexican soloists, has alternated and shared the stage with many Brazilian, Caribbean, and American soloists such as Grover Washington, Jr.. Another pianist, who since the late 8Os has achieved a good deal of public recognition for his technical capabilities, as well as sense of swing, is Luis Zepeda. Likewise, guitarist Roberto "Betuco" Arballo is one of the performers who most frequently collaborates with musicians from the west coast such as Abraham Laboriel, Alex Acuña, and Clare Fischer among others. In spite of all the difficulties, the situation of jazz in Mexico tended to improve. lt was perceptible not only in the performance (technical) aspect, but more importantly, in the development of a distinctive idiom of international quality.
During this decade there appeared a jazz club of high profile -"El Arcano." Here, almost all of the local artists as well as some international figures performed. The club was closed in the mid 9Os.
Much of the panorama of the previous decade is reflected during this period. There has not been a period so fruitful as the 6Os.
Nevertheless, the level of Mexican jazz musicians is frequently acknowledged all over the world. In spite of the lack of support, or even the recognition from authorities or institutions, this decade produced more jazz recordings than all the previous periods together. The main trends have been to renew the repertoire, avoid repetition, and toward attempting to create a genuine accent in Mexican jazz.
From the international festivals that took place, we were able to enjoy the performances of Cecil Taylor, Michel Camilo, Chick Corea (with different bands), Herbie Hancock, Dave Valentin, Freddy Hubbard, and Paquito D'Rivera. However, most of the international representation came to these festivals from Europe. Among those artists we heard: Manfred Schoof, Michel Petrucciani, Uli Lenz, Rainer Brünninghaus, Giorgio Gaslini, and many others. I only mention these artists because they are the ones with whom we shared the stage. Unfortunately, most jazz festivals catered to international artists; thus the participation of local musicians was often limited to the smaller concert halls. As a result, the new generations of jazz fans are unaware of what is happening in Mexican jazz. As for the promotion of Mexican artists outside the country, our Department of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores) has never sent a musician or jazz band to represent Mexico internationally.
This is the reason why a vast majority of the people reading this article have never thought of Mexico as a possible power in jazz.
Among the new artist we distinguish sax player Diego Maroto, sax and clarinetist Marcos Miranda (whose musical idiom is really unique) , the extraordinary singer Iradia Noriega (daughter of Freddy Noriega and the only singer with the potential for an international career,) guitarist Julio Revueltas (of musical lineage)and a crowd of groups with ethnic fusion such as "Xaman", "Obsidiana," and "Jazztlán" -and finally the most important soloist in this fusion idiom, Antonio Zepeda (who has had the opportunity to play in European festivals.) Although there are many more names, these are doubtless the most representative ones. Along with these artists, a number of new bands have also been established. Sadly, minimum quality and lack of scholarship characterize most of these groups which, supported by untrained audiences, have found their way into the concert halls and national festivals causing disappointing reactions among the listeners.
A good sign in jazz, as I mentioned earlier, is the development of an excellent recording industry. During these years record labels such as "Coyoacán Records," "Jazzorca" "Producciones Fonográficas," and "Pentagrarna" have appeared. They have produced interesting works in spite of their inconsistency -some of them have disappeared or are working on other genres outside of jazz.
It was in 1996 when the first record label exclusively dedicated to producing the most relevant expressions of the genre without discrimination of style or trend, and committed to all the concepts and artists, finally appeared. So far they have produced more than 20 albums. Among the upcoming projects is the release of a panorama of Mexican jazz since the 192Os, which we have already mentioned in this article. Forthcoming also, is the creation of a website through which their products can be purchased.
As can be observed in this article on Jazz in Mexico, as opposed to Cuba or Brazil, Mexico still has to find its way into the international spheres. Yet, this is an aspect upon which we will continue to work tirelessly.
Very likely, we share the same problems with many other places in the world, for jazz is still struggling to be acknowledged as one of the most important musical trends in the globe.
Like its origins, the future of jazz in this country is uncertain. What we can emphatically assure however is that jazz in Mexico will survive - 'even against all predictions'.
Dr. Roberto A. Aymes
*Article published in "INTERNATIONAL JAZZ ARCHIVES JOURNAL" University of Pittsburg
International Academy of Jazz & Hall of Fame- Vol. II, No. 2, Fall 1999-2000