Nacho Alcántara: the “pasión mexicana” meets jazz and the six strings

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A very talented guitarist in an exclusive interview (original one in Spanish)

Lately, Mexican jazz has had without any doubt a considerable growth and has attracted international attention. Unquestionably Nacho Alcántara is one of the figures of the new generation who has contributed with notable strength to this praiseworthy art form.” Francisco Lelo De Larrea

Nacho Alcántara can provide the sole chordal support on a piano-less band, which he does with taste and skill as well as playing fleet and melodic solos.” Brian Lynch

Born in 1987 in Mexico City, Nacho Alcántara grew up in Coyoacán, the historical neighborhood in the Mexican capital. Since an early age he has been into music. At the age of 15, he started taking guitar lessons and giving rock gigs.

Three years later, after discovering jazz music, he made the decision to focus on music for the rest of his life, studying in depth solfeggio, counterpoint, classical harmony, jazz improvisation and modern music theory.

He has studied with Adam Rogers, Brian Lynch, Jonathan Kreisberg, Gilad Hekselman, Barry Harris, Dr. Mageshen Naidoo, Bruce Saunders, Matt Marvuglio, Luigi Grasso, Carine Bonnefoy and Emil Spanyi among many others.

Since 2006 he has started playing professional concerts and touring with the most important jazz musicians in the Mexican and international scene, becoming one of the most in-demand guitarists of his generation.

In his professional experience he has played/recorded with Brian Lynch, Marcus Printup, Gerry López, Agustin Bernal, Beuajean Project, Gabriel Puentes, Nicolas Santella, Iraida Noriega, Gael Petrina, Ariel Tessier, Gustavo Nandayapa, Tyler Mitchell, Marc Osterer, Blair Latham, Surya-Anita among many others.

He has performed as leader and sideman at several Jazz international venues: Panama Jazz Festival, Xalapa International Jazz Fest, Festival Internacional Cervantino de México, Firenze Jazz Club, Café Universel Paris, Baiser Salé Paris, etc.

Since 2011 Nacho Alcántara has been living in Paris, where he continues his artistic career performing with local and foreign musicians. Paris, the city where his Latin-American roots, his jazzy training and his clean and precise guitar technique attract attention and approval from European musicians and audiences.

He is also a good composer, arranger and educator: since the age of 16 he has been teaching (privately and in group lessons) at music schools, high-schools, home tutoring and via Skype. When he was 19 years old, he got hired by Loyola University in Mexico to teach group music lessons. He also taught some music workshops in his native country (in Xalapa, Guadalajara and Zacatecas). Since 2012 Nacho Alcántara has been in charge of music class at the Lycée Luis Buñuel in Paris.

His current projects are mainly influenced by jazz, traditional music from all over the world, artists and arts from various countries and generations. Nowadays, his professional activities comprehend performing, teaching, recording, producing and writing music. He’s looking forward to making music that sounds actual and coherent with our generation always bringing to front older material and references from different parts of time and geography.

Recordings

Producer, arranger, musical director and guitarist of the album Madiba recorded in Mexico City (Sala de Audio, 2011) with the singer Surya Anita.

Band leader, arranger and guitarist of the album Alma Mía E.P (Gerry López – saxophone; Gael Petrina – double bass; Ariel Tessier – drums) released on 21st November 2012 and recorded by Erwan Boulay (https://nachoalcantara.bandcamp.com/).

“There are always musical and artistic pieces from our countries and cultures that need to be reviewed and explored. Going back to the 30’s and 40’s in Mexican music history I found these beautiful love songs – written by women composers – which suited perfectly into the parameters and aesthetics of modern jazz music. We tried to keep the sense of love, passion and humanity in arrangement and performance, all the people involved in the project came to it naturally and positively.” Nacho.

Guitarist on the track Let’s Cool One of the Gerry López album Fro Trio (Hans Glawischnig – bass ; E.J. Strickland –  drums ;  Gerry López – sax alto  http://frotrio.bandcamp.com/), recorded in Paris (BopCity Studios, 2012).

Interview

Tell us how your passion for music was born.
It was born at a tender age. My mother was a great music lover; she was able to play the guitar and she listened always to good music at home. Later, at the high school, I realized that a person, who can play a musical instrument, can get any moment better and create a special energy out of nowhere.

You used to play rock music, what was your favorite rock band?
For a long time Red Hot Chili Peppers and the guitar virtuosos like Steve Vai and Eric Johnson were my models.

How were you seduced by jazz?
The energy, the spiritual subject seduced me… that energy to know that not everything has been done or told and that the own aspect of the jazz composer/arranger/performer has a great importance. There is tolerance and strictness at the same time.

Who is your favorite guitarist?
Adam Rogers, probably.

Tell us about the launch of your Alma Mía album. And what piece do you enjoy most?
The Alma Mía EP was born for a work by an events promoter in Paris. He told me to prepare a Mexican repertoire to show at some venues in Paris.
Así is the piece I love most.

What message do you want to send with your music?
I’m not that kind of artist who wants to communicate a single message. The most important thing for me is that everyone, who listens to my music, is linked with or touched for what he/she sees or listens to. Then, if each one interprets the “elements” from a personal point of view is even better.

What’s the best memory of your concerts?
Performing at the Panama Jazz Festival with Brian Lynch  and some Mexican friends.

Why did you choose to move to Paris?
Because it looked like an interesting place that opened me the door to music and life.

Have you been influenced by Paris in any way? If so, how?
Yes, I have. Paris has taught me a lot about the old continent and has let me get in contact with people from all over the world thanks to its strength of attraction. Paris has given me a friend in each country.

What do you love most about Paris?
My friends, the colors you see and the foreign languages you hear walking through the city.

Tell us about your experience at the Paris CRR (Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional Jazz).
It has been an experience like every educational experiences. It has had lots of advantages, but also disadvantages. Without a doubt, I have had two teachers, who have taught me a lot. They keep on inspiring me: Carine Bonnefoy and Emil Spanyi.

What are you listening to at the moment?
Tchaikovsky, Bud Powell, Ibrahim Ferrer and Los Panchos Trio, even music arranged by Carine Bonnefoy, Vince Mendoza and Gil Evans, my favorite arrangers.

Are there any differences between the French musical educational system and the Mexican one?
Yes, there are. The French school has introduced idiosyncrasy of classical music, which is very strict and intellectual, to all of its departments. It stresses rigid grades between the teachers and students.
Instead Mexican school is influenced more by the school of the United States, at the same time is open-minded to the traditional Latino-American music, that has cultural contents, not theoretical ones.

Would you like to change anything of the current Mexican music?
Yes, I would like to limit the corruption at the high school of music and have extra money by the Government  for education and culture.

You can speak other foreign languages besides your mother tongue (French, English, Italian and Russian), how was this passion born?
I inherited the love for foreign languages from my mother. She could speak four languages.

Are you into other forms of art?
Yes, I am. In particular I’m into literature, cinema, theatre, painting, even if the last two of them I know a little.

Have you realized your dreams?
Yes, I have. However I have always new dreams.

Would you like to come back to Mexico?
Yes, I would, even if it’s not soon.

Could you please send a message to our readers, especially to the young musicians that undertake the hard and long way in the world of music?
Of course. Taking risks and doing things for love is the same or even more important than talent and intelligence, because the aim is not to take the shortest way, which is endless, but not to be afraid of difficulties.

Contacts

The official Nacho Alcántara website

Soundcloud Profile

YouTube Channel

Official Facebook page

About Author

pianist and singer-songwriter "The Rovers" acoustic trio #pop #folk http://theroversband.wix.com/the-rovers /// jazz singer "Liza & The Brothers" #jazz trio http://lizathebrothers.wix.com/liza-and-thebrothers /// classical piano /// foreign languages