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Interviews

Jose and Nomar Negroni

By Published: November 11, 2004

Today there is a new generation of jazz musicians that perform native Puerto Rican music (rhythms). These young virtuosos are taking our music around the world and presenting it with a fresh, new outlook. —Jose Negroni

Pianist Jose Negroni represents a new generation of Puerto Rican musicians whose music transcends the traditional salsa format. His music seamlessly fuses elements of "straight ahead" jazz with classical lyricism and hints of the folkloric rhythms of Puerto Rico.

Negroni earned his Bachelor's Degree at the prestigious Conservatiorio de Musica de Puerto Rico. Consequently, Negroni taught music at the Conservatorio for seventeen years. During this time he also established himself as a producer, arranger, composer and musical director.

Over the years Negroni has collaborated with artists such as Chayanne, Carmita Jimenez, Yolandita Monge, Jose Luis Rodriguez, Braulio, Ed Calle, Sammy Figueroa, Juan Pablo Torres and the legendary violinist, Frederico Britos. In 1995 Negroni relocated to Miami, Florida where he assumed the position of Director of Creative Publishing with Sony Music Publishing. In addition, Negroni has performed at key jazz festivals and nightclubs in Miami, Puerto Rico and New York.

In 2003 Negroni released Naturaleza/Nature , which was inspired by the natural beauty of Puerto Rico's landscape. Since its release it has developed a strong following and is currently receiving airplay on 280 stations nationwide.

Negroni's most recent project is a collaboration with his son, Nomar Negroni (on drums) and the electrifying bassist, Jaime Rivera. Essentially, Negroni's trio represents the best of both worlds: experience, the vitality of youth and a clear, common vision.

All About Jazz: Negroni's Trio represents the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. Now that the project is complete, how do you feel about it? Are the results everything you hoped for? If you were given the opportunity, is there anything you would change?

Jose Negroni: I feel accomplished twice over. First, I received a tremendous amount of support from my family and friends. Also, the fact that my music is being enjoyed by a wide audience. To answer your question, if I had it to do over I wouldn't change a thing.

AAJ: As the title implies, the project is a showcase for your trio. What aspect of the trio format do you find most appealing?

JM: The range. Meaning, the combination of piano, drums & bass gives us the liberty of playing melodically or aggressively. The aggressiveness in our sound is what appeals to me the most. Also, the fact that I get to share the stage with my son, Nomar.

AAJ: Your music is anchored in the jazz realm, however, it contains hints of classical lyricism, the folkloric rhythms of Puerto Rico and a New Age sound. Describe your music in your own words.

JN: Put simply, my music is melody and harmony.

AAJ: One of your role models is pianist Chick Corea. In fact, Los Duendes draws upon the Iberian influences that inspired the tune, Spain. Is Los Duendes your way of tipping your hat to Chick Corea?

JN: No, that was not my intention. In order to pay homage to Chick Corea one would have to go beyond one song!

AAJ: Jose, describe the experience of working with your son, Nomar.

JN: Sharing the stage with Nomar, fills me with pride, love and emotion. It's a beautiful thing to know that we have a special connection, meaning, he inherently knows what my next move will be (musically speaking). Nomar is more than just my son, he is also a friend.

AAJ: Nomar, describe the experience of working with your father, Jose.

Nomar Negroni: Well, I can say that since I was a child I was present at my father's concerts and various works. Hence, it was very natural and fun for me to grow up around my father's music. At the same time I was gaining valuable (musical) experience. It makes me very happy to play with my father professionally.

AAJ: [Publicist] Jim Eigo caught your Trio live in Miami recently. He commented to me that in terms of your talent you are "right on the heels of" drummer, Dafnis Prieto." How does it feel to be compared to one of the world's finest drummers?

NN: It is an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as Dafnis Prieto. However, the drummer I most identify with is Vinnie Colaiuta. I admire his versatility and style.



AAJ: Tell me about Jaime Rivera, an incredibly talented bassist. He really shines on tunes such as "Waiting for You" and "Rev it Up!".

JN: Jaime comes from a musical family. Besides being an excellent bassist and arranger, he is a multi-talented musician who plays a number of instruments. His youthful energy brings a freshness and funky groove to the trio.

AAJ: Who came up with the concept for "Rev It Up?" It's obviously a throwback to a Jimi Hendrix tune titled, "Fire"...

JN: Nomar. The idea of "Drum & Bass" style, and the bass line was Nomar's, however, the melody is entirely Jose's. One evening Nomar was going at it on the piano and playfully "drummed" up the bass line. After hearing this, Jose quickly sat down at the piano and cranked out the melody.

AAJ: You chose to rework a few standards such as George Gershwin's "Summertime" and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints". Both of these tunes have been interpreted time and again. In light of that fact how did you manage to come up with such fresh interpretations of these two timeworn standards?

JN: What one tends to "feel" in these two tracks is the "young" side of the trio. Namely, Jaime and Nomar.

AAJ: Jose, Naturaleza , paid tribute to the music and spirit of Puerto Rico. Do you feel that the folkloric rhythms of Puerto Rico receive the attention they deserve on an international level? It seems that the music of Cuba has always been more popular with the general public. In your opinion, why is that?

JN: The popularity of Cuban music is well deserved. Cuban music (and culture) is solid, rhythmically, harmonically and melodically. The music of Puerto Rico has the same attributes and has always been featured by Puerto Ricans as well as artists of other persuasions. Today there is a new generation of jazz musicians that perform native Puerto Rican music (rhythms). These young virtuosos are taking our music around the world and presenting it with a fresh, new outlook.

AAJ: Jose, you have been described as having, "a complete command of the keyboard, with amazing classical technique, jazz chops and the ability to throw down the clave and rumba rhythms at will." Over the years you have built a strong following in the Miami area. Any plans to perform in New York in the foreseeable future?

JN: Your words have obligated me to continue learning about this grand instrument called the piano. Thank you for having the sensibility to take notice of said details. Yes, our plans include bringing our music to New York and the rest of the world. Last February we performed at New York's Satalla. It was a great experience!

AAJ: Jose/Nomar: What recordings do you enjoy listening to at home or in your spare time?

JN: Chick Corea's Electric Band & Acoustic Band Trio. Also, (saxophonist) Miguel Zenon.

AAJ: Coincidentally, Miguel Zenon is one of my favorite musicians. I had the good fortune of interviewing Miguel some time ago. I make it a point to catch Miguel live whenever possible. He currently resides in New York.

NN: The latest recording of Chick Corea Electric Band [ To the Stars ], Michael Brecker's Don't Try This at Home and Miguel Zenon's Ceremonial.

AAJ: Like father, like son! Are there any particular artists that stand out in your mind?


JN: Yes, Puerto Rico's own Miguel Zenon!

AAJ: When will Negroni's Trio be released?

JN: Yes, it was released on August 17, 2004 through Universal Music Latino.

AAJ: Much success with Negroni's Trio. A very impressive effort indeed. I look forward to catching the Trio live (in New York) in the near future.

JN/NN: Thank You.


Visit Jose and Nomar Negroni on the web at www.negronistrio.com .

Read CD Reviews of Piano/Drum/Bass at AAJ.



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