The Galician composer and saxophonist Xose Miguélez is immersed in the presentation of this new album. You told me that you have given enough interviews to be a rather minority music for yours. What do you think is the reason?
I hope it's because the album is being liked a lot. Perhaps also the fact that my previous work, Ontology Origin records, 2019 was well received makes people more receptive to a new work. How are you not starting from scratch anymore! Also the fact that a record company with a very good reputation is behind it and of course having these three wonderful musicians with me: Jean-Michel Pilc (piano), Carlos Barreto (double bass) and Marcos Cavaleiro (drums). I would like you to tell us about your musical journey from your native Galicia to this recording for a Seattle label.
It was all as a result of the recording in 2018 of Ontology, one of the musicians who participated in the recording had the phone number of John Bishop, drummer and head of the record company, at the end of the recording we sent him a demo and he was interested in the album. And I've already released both of them with this label. After Ontology, in which you traced Galician folklore, now you take an important turn and also a total change of travel companions. Can you introduce them?
The previous album was cut short by the pandemic, we were only able to do three concerts in the United States during the recording. In this I decided to change the type of instrumentation, I liked it more that it sounded like piano instead of guitar and when the opportunity arose to record with Jean-Michel Pilc, who for me is one of the leading international jazz pianists, I had to take advantage of the opportunity .
But when you present it live, can you count on Pilc?
The idea is to try to do the concerts with the original musicians. In fact, the album bears my name because Pilc could not be on the cover due to his record contract, but it is a project co-led by both of us, between the two of us we decided to choose Barreto, who is one of the most important double bass players in current jazz and who is already They knew Pilc and Cavaleiro, in addition to being a great drummer, he is a very good friend of mine and we have also played together. Pilc is French and just moved to Montreal, but he's usually around here in the summer and fall and I think at those times of the year it will be easy to organize a concert.
Although there are two different generations in the quartet, and both Pilc and Barretto have a more extensive curriculum, I get the feeling that there are four musicians on the recording with the same desire to enjoy themselves.
I like that you make this comment to me, the four of us have the same way of understanding jazz and we were very comfortable recording, it shows because it is a record of first takes, of the ten songs there are six recorded in the first take, for me it is very significant. There is only one track where three takes have been done. It's like a live record.
It gives the feeling that you are playing thinking more about the music you play, than about contributing anything new and revolutionary.
You are touching on an important topic. In today's music there are many people looking for complicated structures, both harmonic and harmonic. News that shock and dazzle. We seek the opposite, with related materials, and the best known for musicians, that allows us to express ourselves as freely as possible. Or compose themes based on standards that we know well. Hence the idea of Contradictio (that contradiction between what is fashionable and what we intend)
If you think so, let's go with the compositions and surely many interesting things will emerge.
Little girl, still a reference to folklore. Why?
I am a musician who comes from traditional Galician music, I started playing the Galician bagpipes when I was six years old and I am still related to the popular music of my land, both at an instrumental level and at a research level. On the previous album, the relationship with folklore was very clear, everything was based on four notes of a song by a Swiss musicologist Dorothé Schubart that she recorded at the time of her to my great-aunt. During the pandemic I was looking for popular melodies that fit in with jazz themes, and I just discovered that No te enamores Meniña fit perfectly with the harmonic structure of Caravan by Juan Tizol that Duke Ellington made popular. In the stations of the United States it is the theme that is playing the most from this album. Pilc's solo is incredible.
Did you give Jean-Michel Pilc total freedom or did he take it?
I think he doesn't need you to give him freedom, he has such control that it's a privilege to play with him, he pulls you in and makes you grow as a musician every time you play with him.
You and the night and the music. Almost two minute rhythm section duet, amazing.
It is another of the songs that they like the most, the idea was to choose a not too well-known standard and let the double bass do the melody. Go on creating that structure that makes it grow, so that when the piano and sax come in, everything explodes. "The first take is the good one" said Monk.
I think Schwartz wrote it for a Broadway musical, what a time. Would you like to play, even if it was only once, in a dance band like those of that time?
One hundred percent agree, this is a very danceable song, and especially because of the drums. Here Cavaleiro gives a master class on how to play brushes. It is very difficult to maintain that intensity for six or seven minutes. One of the problems that I see in teaching music in general and in jazz in particular, is the disconnection with dance. When music is something physical. Which is transmitted through the body. It works for me, imagining that when playing I had to make someone dance. There is a connection between sound and the body.yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - Xose Miguélez
Ontology, what have you changed and why, from the previous Ontology of 2019?
Pilc had liked it on the previous album and asked me to record it again as a quartet. So we made more versions. Or what happened is that we had contracted the studio for two days and the album was recorded in one, we decided to take advantage of the next day to do some duet recording in the morning, we liked it and we put one to close on the album. It was also an idea to maintain a link with the previous album.
Contradictio, I can't find the contradiction anywhere, just a beautiful ballad with that deep sax sound that makes you fall in love.
From the outset we looked for a common word in all the languages that the four musicians speak, and we found that in French, English, Portuguese, Galician and Spanish the word is understood by its Latin root. And on the other hand the contradiction that we were talking about today's jazz.
Someday My Monk Will Come, you substitute Prince for Monk, is Thelonious your princess?
It's a tribute to Monk, one of my favorite musicians. And I thought what would be the last song that Monk would play, and I came up with this Disney tune that if you just listen to the tune it can even sound almost cheesy. But afterwards it is a beautiful melody and a fundamental standard in the history of jazz. So we thought about how we thought Monk would have played it, that's the idea of the song. There is a lot of space between Pilc and me and I think it turned out very well.
We keep reviewing classics. But not for me. You've left plenty of room for the trio, have you thought about recording Chet Baker?
Yes, you've hit the nail on the head there. The tune as I play it is an imitation of Chet's tune. I'm thinking of him singing, and I learned that melody by ear listening to him. I had also heard a version of him on a Pilc album that I liked a lot and I wanted to play it with him.
Soul And Body, more soul than body? More room for emotions to flow?
Yes, here is a Pilc master class on how to play a ballad, I'm a big fan of Pilc playing ballads. But how to make a new melody for the best melody ever written (which is Body and Soul) So I thought I would find a single motif and use the most important notes of that motif but changing the order of the title to give more importance to the soul than to the body. The result is a very classic ballad but with very modern touches, and you can listen to Pilc reviewing great pianists and at the same time be very him.
Out of Nowhere, another standard, with Cavaleiro and Barretto thrown in, you respecting the text and Pilc taking the theme for a ride. Do I think you are the one you respect the most?
There are a couple of solos of mine, in which I also go quite far, especially in You and the night and the music, for me it's my best solo on this album and I think that's where I'm looser and you can better appreciate the path I would like to take as a saxophonist. This is the track we need three takes, at first it was going too slow. At one point Pilc marked it super fast, he almost didn't give me time to enter. We liked it a lot and we left it that way.
Suddenly Pilc introduces a theme of his own, Galicia, has he written it for the album? I think he has been able to transfer that Saudade as a feeling. Here we move away from the American jazz of the last century and respectfully approach the folkloric tradition seen by a Frenchman with his cultural baggage.
He wrote it in the recording studio, he had been to Galicia once, he fell in love with this land where I live, south of Vigo. The idea was to record nine songs, but she came up with that score and of course we recorded it. It's the only song that doesn't have solos, he changes the harmony behind him, creating that kind of loop with the melody that doesn't change. He likes to do that kind of thing. We left to record a song and he tells me, here, let's play this and he starts playing the melody.
To close another Ontology now in a duet with a "more naked" sax and with a piano that moves between two feelings, that of folklore and that of improvised music. A theme to listen many times.
It wasn't going to be on the album but we really liked the take and we didn't know whether to include the quartet take or the duo take, but in the end they both made it. We managed to stay within the score, which is quite complex and if you go outside it's easy to get lost. But Pilc is comfortable in these difficult structures and I am comfortable because it is my subject.
How are we bowling?
Well at the moment there is nothing closed, I am waiting for when Pilc is here. At the moment we are going to Jazzahead in Germany, which is the most important fair, and see if we can sell it well. This year is dedicated to Canada and since Pilc lives there, it could be a good opportunity. And in the fall we will try to do an intense tour.