Diego Urcola: Musical Ecstasy
Urcola's band mates are people he has played with frequently over time. They know one another, musically, and it helped contribute to the feel of the album. "It turned out much better than I expected. My idea was to do a quartet CD where everybody could have a lot of space to play. The tunes were not that complicated. Simple tunes that allowed everybody to express themselves. That worked well. The last couple records I did had a lot of emphasis on composition with a lot of heavy arrangements and structures. I wanted to do something more focused on interaction and improvisation. With that you always have a risk, because you have usually a couple days to do it. If you put a lot of emphasis on those things. It might happen or it might not happen. When I listen to it, it's really good. I'm really happy with the way we played and the way the music came out."
The 45-year-old Urcola started playing trumpet as a youngster, and didn't look back. He played in an advanced elementary school that had a marching band, and more opportunities for musicians at the time than other schools in Buenos Aires. "I started with trumpet, but in the symphonic band of the marching band, I used to play a lot of other instruments, because I was one of the few guys who could switch around. Sometimes they had enough trumpets, but there was no guy to play the euphonium part, for example. In the symphonic bands, those were very important parts. My father used to say, 'In this tune you have to play euphonium.' Or French horn. Sometimes in the marching band I had to play tuba, or percussion, or whatever."
Urcola adapted well to switching instruments. He says a key to doing it is the proper mental approach. "If you think too much you're never going to do it. Because you start thinking, 'How am I going to do it?' It's true. If you have that kind of mentality: I'm going to do it. Maybe I have to practice a little bit every day. At the end, it's amazing how similar everything is. There is some technical stuff for each instrument. But basically, your music is inside you. When you overcome those technical issues, then it's the same.
"It's amazing how good you can get. That's what I tell my students, sometimes. In order to get better at your own instruments, or get better as a musician, the best thing you can do is to learn other instruments. For example if you are a trumpet player, but you have some rhythm problems, maybe practice drums. Your rhythm is going to get better if you practice a little on drums. Your ear is maybe going to get better if you practice on piano. It doesn't mean you're going to perform on those instruments, but I think it's going to help you with your main instrument."
He continued his music training at Conservatorio Nacional de Musica, graduating with a degree similar to a music education degree in the U.S. He was already working a lot as a professional musician in Buenos Aires, doing theater gigs, playing in some rock bands, doing television and studio recording jobs. Jazz gigs were harder to come by, usually early in the week and more for fun than for career. There was very little jazz on the radio, and the local scene was small. There were few jazzers his age, so when he got to stretch out, is was usually with much older players. But a jazz career was on his mind. "My idea always was to try to become a jazz musician. I was trying to save some money. I always had the idea to come and study here in the U.S."
He got accepted at Berklee School of Music and arrived at the school in 1988. It wasn't just the school that gave him more access to American jazz, but the popularity of CDs that was growing in the late 1980s.
"I remember when I started Berklee, a Tower Records opened a few blocks away. I couldn't believe it. I was spending all my money on CDs. All the Blue Note records I didn't know that existed. I kind of went crazy with all those. Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson. Can you imagine being a jazz music and not knowing that music? I discovered that music when I got here," he says with glee.