Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Jorge Luis Pacheco: Where In The World Is Pacheco?

Melanie Futorian By

Sign in to view read count
From a country hot in climate and culture, Jorge Luis Pacheco has emerged. The young, passionate Cuban pianist plays with versatility, agility and dynamism; though a mere 25 years old, he has already been invited by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to guest with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in Havana.

Pacheco has also shared the stage with many great musicians, ranging from members of Buena Vista Social Club to bassist Stanley Clarke. In 2007, he received first prize at The International Competition of Young Jazz Musicians and was finalist in The International Jazz Competition in Montreux, Switzerland. He's fast and furiously earning a reputation for being a gifted pianist, percussionist, composer and musical director, and his upcoming CD, Pacheco's Blue (Colibri, 2012), produced by pianist Chucho Valdes, displays his technical mastery and musical artistry.

All About Jazz: You've been hailed as the "flying hands" of a new generation of jazz. Your artistry has resulted in recent invitations to guest with major American jazz musicians. What is it like to cross cultural boundaries and work with these musicians?

Jose Luis Pacheco: I like to play different music with different types of musicians. This is one of the best parts of playing jazz so, when I play in different countries, my music is different. It changes the way I play, though I'm still playing the same style. This is what happened when I worked with American musicians. We have a similar connection in many ways, sharing the same energy and playing with our hearts. We had the opportunity to create music together, which is the most important thing.

AAJ What was it like when you played with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra?

JLP American jazz musicians think more intellectually than Cubans. They tend to be a little remote. Cuban musicians often play faster and fierier; perhaps it's the climate. The roots of jazz in the world are from the Americans. Their feeling is not cold, but [it is] more premeditated. When Wynton Marsalis was in Cuba, he recommended listening more and playing less. In Cuba, we don't have a jazz school. Our school is from the streets, so we don't have this type of information. We often play fast and hard but we have to sometimes play less. To maybe play just two notes but make them really tasteful, 'cause in Latin jazz we can play too many notes.

I like to play fast and am influenced by musicians like Chucho Valdés, Emiliano Salvador, Ruben Gonzales, Bebo Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. They are all virtuosos. They play with hearts but with their minds, too. When you play you really need to listen to the other musicians. I like to create space in the music so we can all speak together like having a good conversation.

Playing with Wynton and the other musicians was one of the most important experiences in my life. Everyone in Cuba respects him. I learned so much, as did the other Cuban musicians. When he emphasized to play subtly, to leave more room so you can go places, it was very important.

AAJ:What's the jazz scene like in Cuba?

JLP: Because we learn on the street, we are creating it. The new generation is trying to make new jazz. We're breaking away from the traditional, incorporating different influences. It's Cuban jazz, not Latin jazz. I like the combination of Cuban, Afro-Cuban and American music. I was in New Orleans and, in two days, learned so much from the culture and had the opportunity to play with musicians like [drummer] Herlin Riley. It was wonderful and everybody was amazing. Before that I played differently.

AAJ: How old were you when you started to play, why did you begin and who influenced you?

JLP: I started at the age of six. I had a piano in my house because my father was a well-respected opera singer and my mother a musical director for one of the most important choruses in Cuba. I followed the steps of my older sister 'cause when I saw her play piano I said, "Hey, I want to do that too." I also studied percussion later. I loved [pianist] Keith Jarrett, and had one of his videos that I replayed every day, but Chucho Valdés was my first influence.

AAJ: How did Chucho Valdés find out about you and what was it like working with him?

JLP: Chucho's son was my friend. My father was also a director of music television and Chucho and my father knew one another for many years from that. Chucho gave me a jazz CD for my eighth birthday, and when I heard it I said, "I want to do this." I'd visit his house and could hear him play from the living room. His son would say, "Come on, let's play basketball," but I'd have to tell him, "Wait minute," 'cause I'd have to stop and listen.

Chucho's a wonderful pianist and when I visited we'd play together. Sometimes he'd just speak to me about music but he never tried to change my style. "I'd ask him, "What do you think?" Sometimes he'd say, "Oh yes, good," and at times, "Don't play." So when I was older I told Chucho I wanted to make a CD and we did. Joaquin Betancourt who is a master arranger and producer, co-produced the CD. He gave me technical direction where Chucho gave me his artistic opinion. On one song I played for 15 minutes, which for a CD is very long, and Chucho said, "Hey you can't do that!"


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Django Bates: Delightful Piano Touch Catching Up With Django Bates: Delightful Piano Touch
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: January 16, 2018
Read Sean Noonan: Not Simply Beating a Dead Horse Drum Catching Up With Sean Noonan: Not Simply Beating a Dead Horse Drum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: January 12, 2018
Read Gunhild Carling: Sweden's Incredible Talent Catching Up With Gunhild Carling: Sweden's Incredible Talent
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: November 25, 2017
Read The Dazzling Alexis Cole Catching Up With The Dazzling Alexis Cole
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Alex Han: Embracing The Spirit Catching Up With Alex Han: Embracing The Spirit
by Liz Goodwin
Published: October 4, 2017
Read Ramon Valle: The Amsterdam transplant remains rooted in Cuba Catching Up With Ramon Valle: The Amsterdam transplant remains rooted in Cuba
by Joan Gannij
Published: October 3, 2017
Read "Sean Noonan: Not Simply Beating a Dead Horse Drum" Catching Up With Sean Noonan: Not Simply Beating a Dead Horse Drum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: January 12, 2018
Read "Eric Burdon’s Summer of Love" Catching Up With Eric Burdon’s Summer of Love
by Walter Atkins
Published: July 30, 2017
Read "Dara Tucker: Seeds of the Divine" Catching Up With Dara Tucker: Seeds of the Divine
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: August 31, 2017
Read "Kurt Rosenwinkel: Caipirinhas and Constellations" Catching Up With Kurt Rosenwinkel: Caipirinhas and Constellations
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 30, 2017
Read "Alex Han: Embracing The Spirit" Catching Up With Alex Han: Embracing The Spirit
by Liz Goodwin
Published: October 4, 2017
Read "Martin Torgoff Discuss Bop Apocalypse" Catching Up With Martin Torgoff Discuss Bop Apocalypse
by Steve Provizer
Published: May 14, 2017