Setting the Pace for Jazz: The Irresistible Magnetism of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band

 

Joan Chamorro and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band

Joan Chamorro and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band

I make no apologies for placing so much emphasis on jazz in Spain and in particular in Barcelona. Why? Because The Sant Andreu Jazz Band is about youngsters and jazz – aged 8 to 20 – and their inspirational mentor, Joan Chamorro. Right now Jazz&Jazz is focussing on lamentations about the paucity of jazz amongst the younger generations when, what older jazz fans fail to realise or even accept, is that we are entering a new era of jazz – of up and coming bands and musicians with booming numbers of younger fans. 

They are not spread across the country like our many jazz clubs but rather they are centred in our large metropolises like London, Liverpool and Newcastle. Nor do they promote themselves via the printed media but rather online via the social media where they build up strong fan bases.

As Ian Brameld puts it in a debate I currently have running on Facebook: “There seems to be two diverging scenes. 1) Keeping the old jazz clubs going for the declining numbers of ageing members and musicians; 2) A revival of the jazz of the early to mid 1900s played by young, trained musicians in their own style and for their contemporaries. It would be nice if they could overlap but Amy Roberts has hit the nail on the head. The old and the young don’t necessarily mix well.”

Another thing is that the media, especially the BBC, haven’t yet cottoned on to this new jazz revival – if ever they will! Back in the glory days jazz was the media rage! Is there perhaps a chance that the wheel will turn full cycle?

Jazz&Jazz has featured some of our new generation jazz bands and will be featuring more. But meantime back to Barcelona and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band for inspiration and proof that as much as many frown upon jazz, it is still popular – and can be so even amongst our sub teens.

(NB This feature follows on from three earlier Jazz&Jazz posts subtitled “Keeping Jazz Alive: Parts 1, 2 and 3”)

Peter M Butler
Proprietor & Editor of Jazz&Jazz

Extracts from an article by Eva Vila, musician, lecturer and film director, published in Barcelona Metrópolis.

 

“The Sant Andreu Jazz Band (SAJB} project is driven by a work ethos that leads its members, children and young people aged between seven and twenty, to play out of need, out of the desire to feel good and convey this to others ……

Elsa Armengou

Elsa Armengou

“In the band’s ranks, boys and girls between seven and twenty years old perform a repertoire of jazz, above all swing, from the thirties and forties, with catchy melodies and a rhythm rooted in dance. Where does the SAJB’s magnetism lie? It could be summarised in a single gesture, that of Elsa Armengou, a seven-year-old girl, as she gives the tempo to a twenty-strong orchestra before taking up her own trumpet to play; this, as well as the joy, rhythm and naturalness with which they perform their music from the stage. You can feel that the project is underpinned by a work ethos that leads them to play out of need, the desire to feel good and to communicate this to other people – family, friends and the audience ……

“Besides brimming with good musicians, the SAJB’s great virtue lies in taking classic and popular jazz to audiences who hitherto had never been attracted by this type of music – Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan ……

“The result is the product of the methodological work of Joan Chamorro, known for his thirty-year career as a musician, especially as a baritone saxophonist in various bands, and twenty-five years as a teacher ……

We have to grow

“Chamorro fully realises that the goal is not to make money, although this does not mean that the SAJB should exist merely as a school group. “I want the project to grow so that people can see what kind of music children aged nine and twelve years old are capable of making and get other kids to fall in love with it.” ……The children have to feel that their concerts and music are “real”. As real as the names they refer to constantly during rehearsals or concerts: Billie Holiday, Sidney Bechet, and so on. ……

“Instead of mechanically repeating studies and scales, the SAJB children listen repeatedly to the great jazz compositions. Following them and imitating them is their first wish. This is followed by the excitement of being part of a group of friends and musicians, and finally, concerts, sharing stage with such prestigious guests as Jesse Davis, Terell Stafford and Wycliffe Gordon, who became their stage-mates during the concert at the Palau de la Música. If music knows no boundaries, why not let the students cross them beyond the school walls? ……

Rita-Payes

Joan Chamorro on bass with The Sant Andreu Band at Fest Jazz, Châteauneuf-du-Faou, July, 2014 (Photo © Peter M Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

Teaching how to love music

……  ”The teacher should know how to motivate or encourage children, and before teaching them music, he or she should teach them to love music. You need to make music appeal to children; they should see it as fun. A child will never be motivated to study if we tell them that they will be able to play within a year as long as they study hard. My students start with a song they learn by ear and will be able to play within a week. A note in itself is not important to a child; what they listen to is the melody in their head.”

“When you use the actual music without considering the coding of the language, and you do so from your own feelings, you are creating a true connection with the instrument. The results with groups of children aged seven, for example, are amazing. They do not play anything that they do not listen to or sing internally. This is their language. As they study out of pleasure and enthusiasm, they retain things better. And you should hear them improvising! A lot of musicians would have loved to improvise the way these kids do! Only this deep connection with the instrument will make creative musicians of them, a musician who not only reads but also has the ability to sing, to put their fingers in the right place and know what it will sound like.”

“…… Chamorro knows that this will have touched their lives forever.”

Essential Viewing: Jazzers, do take the time to visit Philippe’s Souvenir Review and experience the magic of The Sant Andreu Jazz Band. Simply click here.

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