Diego Urcola: Musical Ecstasy
"Deep (To Astor Piazzolla and Miles Davis)" finds Urcola sounding introspective, using a mute, a clear nod to Davis. The tribute to Piazzolla, a legend among tango composers, is less obvious, but the song has a soft and sensuous feel, emotions the Argentine master could put into his music. "Senhor Wayne (To Wayne Shorter)" features Urcola on the valve trombone, an instrument he's played for about five years now. It gives him a fatter sound, but different than flugelhorn. Over a lilting Latin beat he shows outstanding dexterity on the instrument. Others to whom Urcola pays tribute are Guillermo Klein, D'Rivera, Hermeto Pascoal, John Coltrane, Woody Shaw and Dizzy Gillespie.
"It happened naturally," Urcola explains. "When I practice the piano, I start playing tunes that I like. Wayne Shorter tunes or other kinds of tunes. Usually ideas come out of that piano practice. So each tune has a different story. For example, 'The Natural,' dedicated to Freddie [Hubbard]. That one came out because I was watching a YouTube video of him playing a TV show with Quincy Jones. It was the '70s, when he was doing all those records for CTI. I think he played 'Straight Life.' A very simple melody on top of this two-chord vamp. I started to think about that kind of music, the way they played. A lot of those tunes he recorded in those days were simple, but there was a lot of energy. Groove-oriented. Very loose. Very open. I like that idea [so] I started playing with that. That tune came out of that. Very simple idea, but rhythmically complex."
Urcola says that when he started getting serious about the trumpet in Argentina in the early '80s, jazz records were hard to come by, but there were some around from the CTI label. "So for me, Freddie Hubbard was kind of like a rock/fusion player, which I loved. But I never heard, until I got here [the U.S.] in the late '80s, any of the Blue Note records or the Art Blakey stuff. That kind of sound [CTI] was the first thing I got from him. He was very powerful."
Davis was one of the first jazz trumpet players Urcola listened to, from Prestige albums his father had. "Miles was always there. Dizzy Gillespie was a guy I was listening to a lot. I remember having a duet record that he did with Oscar Peterson. Even though I never played with Dizzy, I've been working for years with a lot of people who had a strong association him, like Paquito, Slide Hampton and Jimmy Heath. So I feel a strong connection with him, musically. Also, he always wanted to do something with Latin American musicians and Latin music. So he's a big influence."
As for Shorter, "I studied his music all the time. He's one of my favorite composers. His music is very influential for me. All the things that I write have things that are influenced by him. Harmonically and also structures that he uses. The way he develops melodies. I love the way he writes. It's a very strong influence on me," says Urcola. Coltrane, he notes, is not a main influence, "but it's always there. Especially harmonically, the stuff that he did. As an improviser, more than a composer. The way he took improvisation to completely another level. Also his spirit thing. This tune ("Camita') is loosely based on 'Naima.' That kind of vibe. A very open kind of feeling. The vibe of that tune, the rhythm is an Afro-Peruvian rhythm called lando, and the melody is like a South American folk melody."
Adds Urcola, "Miles is a very influential musicianconceptually, and also [as] a player. He really developed a completely different way of playing the trumpet. It's hard not to use some of the stuff that he did. Before him there was a completely different way of playing the trumpet. He created a completely different style. A different way of thinking about how to play the instrument. He's a very important musician that I always think about. Astor is another guy who is always present when I write tunes. For us, [classifying] Argentinean music is kind of like before and after him. Especially for tango music. He's the one that opened a Pandora's Box. Tango music before him was kind of stuck. Everybody was playing the same stuff for the last 50 years. He started to use a lot of modern classical music like Stravinsky and Bartok and other stuff. Then he started to experiment with jazz too. He did some records with Gary Burton and Gerry Mulligan. He started to have improvised sections in his arrangements. It was very rare for tango music. He would improvise over some form or vamp. That was revolutionary for tango. That opened the door for a lot of other musicians. For us [Argentines], Astor is like Charlie Parker or Dizzy Gillespie. Guys who really revolutionized the music."