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Gabriel Vicéns: Puerto Rican Jazz Guitar

Mark Sullivan By

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I'm not the kind of musician who steals lines and chops from other musicians because that's not what improvisation is about, at least for me.
Puerto Rican jazz guitarist/composer Gabriel Vicéns graduated from the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico as the first jazz guitarist, and has gone on to teach guitar at the Music Department at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. He recorded his first solo album Point in Time at age 23; his second album Days has been released by Inner Circle Music. Both albums are notable for his fine writing and playing, as well as some high profile guest stars.

The Albums

All About Jazz: You were fortunate to have some great guest musicians on both of your albums, in addition to a solid Puerto Rican band. Point in Time featured bassist Eddie Gomez & saxophonist David Senchez, while Days featured Sánchez again, along with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin & percussionist Paoli Mejias. How were those connections made?

Gabriel Vicéns: I knew Eddie, David and Paoli since my first years at the Conservatory. They were my mentors there and I was very fortunate to play with them a few times during my studies there. So when I was planning my first recording, the most natural thing to do for me was to call them and they were very helpful and supportive from the beginning.

About Alex, I contacted him via email for the second recording. I have been a big fan of him since high-school and I wanted a trumpet player for this recording because I was looking for a different sound and direction compared to the first one. So he was the first choice and I was also very fortunate he seemed interested. I talked to him about the music, the musicians, where I was going to record it etc.... and he immediately told me he was in. He is a great person, amazing musician, very supportive and he kind of was like a mentor to me during his week here in Puerto Rico. I learned a lot.

AAJ: What was it like co-producing Days with Alex Sipiagin?

GV: It was great. Originally he only was going to play and that's it. But we were on the way to the studio and he asked me if I had someone in mind who was going to work on the mix and mastering. I didn't have anyone in particular so he recommended David Darlington, who is an amazing engineer and they also know each other, so basically it started there. I couldn't come to New York for the mix and mastering session so Alex went there and worked with him. Dave then sent me the mix and we did some final touches and that's it. Alex also connected me with the graphic designer, who also did an amazing job, so I'm really happy with all this and he was really supportive of the project.

AAJ: Talk about the recording schedules & process. Was everything recorded live, with all the players in the room at one time?

GV: We did the record in two days and everything was recorded live at the moment, yes. The studio was pretty big so we separated the piano in one room, the bass in another one and the rest were in one big room. The studio has a lot of windows so at least we could see each other and there was a lot of visual contact which definitely for me is very important in this kind of music. We did one rehearsal before going to the studio and we also played at the university where I teach.

AAJ: After self-releasing the first album, Days was released by Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music. How did that come about?

GV: After I made the record I was looking for different labels to see if maybe they were interested but the ones who were interested didn't offer a good deal for me. Which is understandable considering how the economy is now days and of course CDs don't sell like before.

I talked to a musician named Mario Castro who is a great saxophonist and a great friend of mine. He released his first album with Inner Circle a couple of years ago, so I asked him how that label works with the musicians and I kind of liked the idea but I didn't know Greg Osby personally. So I then talked to Miguel Zenon and David Sanchez and asked them if maybe they could talk to Osby to see if there was a possibility I could release my album with the label. After that, a couple of weeks later I talked to Osby: he told me to send him the album so he can listen to it. That same day, he wrote me and told me he really liked the album, and that there were a lot of bright moments, so I was in.

Playing Live

AAJ: I noticed from your performance calendar that you frequently perform with your own trio. Is that a regular working band?

GV: Yeah, I always like playing in trio. I try to at least have a trio gig per month and that way I can play some standards I'm working on, and also I think as a guitarist it's very important to play in that format which is very different compared to a quintet or septet.

My trio is the traditional line-up: guitar, bass and drums. I usually play with different musicians, depending on their availability. But on recent gigs the musicians have been the same: Bryan Perez on bass and Leonardo Osuna on drums, who also played on the last record.

I play a lot with some of the musicians on the record. Especially Jonathan Suazo and Leonardo Osuna. I also play in their bands so we are constantly working together in different set-ups and projects.

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The World In My View (feat. David Sánchez)

The World In My View (feat. David Sánchez)

Gabriel Vicéns
Point in Time

CD/LP/Track Review
  • Days by Vincenzo Roggero
Catching Up With
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Days

Days

Inner Circle Music
2016

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Days

Days

Inner Circle Music
2015

buy
Point in Time

Point in Time

Self Produced
2012

buy

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