Jazz trumpeter Michael Sarian returned to his Porteño homeland (well, basically his homeland — he moved here when he was 1) for an Argentine tour ahead of the official release date of new and exciting album, “The Escape Suite,” created by him and his up-and-coming North American septet, “Michael Sarian & The Chabones.”
He “escaped” his busy schedule (sorry, couldn’t resist) to come and talk to us earlier today and gave a sneak preview of what’s to come in the album and an insider’s vision of the jazz scene here in Buenos Aires.
The Bubble: Can you tell me a bit about what you’ve been getting up to here in Buenos Aires?
Michael Sarian: Well I used to live here when I was in high school, I was a music teacher, and every month
we used to have jam sessions for the kids in a sort of clinic [workshop] format and we’d bring in different artists. So when I booked my trip over here, I emailed my informal boss and asked if I could come in as that artist – so I went to the clinic and then did a concert at the school. I’ve also had a few recording dates with a rock band and for a movie.
The Bubble: Which movie?
Michael Sarian: It’s called Madraza…They’ve been recording the music for it this week, so I went to a recording studio in Colegiales and improvised a bit so I’ll see if they use any of it! I played with a rock band, Brancaleone, at Niceto Club on Saturday – it was excellent, there were a lot of people, a very different energy in the crowd. Then we also had a concert last Sunday with my own music.
The Bubble: What was the reception like for that?
Michael Sarian: Great! A lot of people came out on a Sunday night to La Boca which was really surprising, and people really like it.
The Bubble: So, how would you say the reception was here compared to back home in the States?
Michael Sarian: It was great. I was shocked at how happy and positive people were here. When I was here before, I was never a professional, only an amateur and a music teacher, so performance was always secondary. Now I’m discovering this whole new world that was only seen from the other side before — and I can see that people are so willing to share their music, their experiences and reach out to connect with you. It’s really nice.
The Bubble: So is there a big jazz scene here in Buenos Aires?
Michael Sarian: Oh yeah. It’s getting better, the quality is very good. There’s this great bar on Gorriti, Borris Club, which is really great. And even this place in La Boca, Al Escenario, which isn’t exclusive to jazz, it’s excellent. There are more and more spaces opening up for that type of music in the city.
The Bubble: This new album, then. How long have you been working on it?
Michael Sarian: It was conceived end of May of 2014, when I was playing a certain type of music for my first album, and I didn’t decide on an album right then, but I remember being with my friend in Vermont and I just decided to do something very different. And that was it really — I started writing music for a separate band, which was just a side project for me, and then when we got the first album done and recorded and it was out in the air, I was in that kind of mind-set, and along came “The Escape Suite.”
The Bubble: You say it’s something very different. How would you define the style of this album compared to “Subtitles,” your last album?
Michael Sarian: For this new album, maybe electronic jazz. Because if you call it jazz fusion, that has a kind of 1980s connotation, and jazz rock, well, is jazz rock. Electronic jazz is vague enough to allow you to make out the electronic undertones, without it being overwhelming. So for example, even though there are horns, I put my trumpet through a processor, and the drum is huge, a bit like a rock n’ roll drum.
The last one, I would always describe as world jazz. It has typical jazzy sounds, but also chacarera rhythms which are from South America, it has some gospel, Klezmer, there’s even an Armenian prayer in there. So it gets all those world rhythms and harmonies in there.
The Bubble: It sounds like you’ve experimented with a lot of different styles over the years. What were the different sources of influence?
Michael Sarian: I’m not sure. But the way I see it, the first album came from my younger years, my formative years, and traveling to Uruguay and Europe, being a tourist in the States, and coming back here again… it was all that put together and me as a student, trying to figure out how to make music. This new one was conceived almost entirely in New York, so I think you can really hear the sounds of the city in there. Hip-hop, dubstep, RnB, drum and bass…there’s basically more of a rock, hip-hop energy than in your typical jazz piece.
The Bubble: And the title “The Escape Suite,” where does that come from?
Michael Sarian: There are a couple of reasons that happily meet together. My friend’s house in Vermont was
called Northern Escape. So a few tracks pay tribute to that house, where the idea for the album was conceived. Also it’s an escapist type of music, so it seemed fitting.
The Bubble: Here we are at your second album. You were a classical musician before, then a world jazz composer, and now an electronic jazz composer. How does that musical evolution happen?
Michael Sarian: It all depends on what you listen to. My first high school music teacher said, before you start writing, always think about what you want to hear. You should ask yourself, what do you want to listen to? So you end up writing what you’re listening to at that time, and you’re inspired by that. I think it’s better that way, because you don’t get caught up in your own little bubble.
The Bubble: And when can we get our hands on the new album?
Michael Sarian: It’s available now for pre-order, the link is on my site, you can purchase an album now and download the first few tracks, then in October when the rest of the tracks come out, you’ll get an email and you can download the rest of them. The official release party is on October 24th in Rockwood music hall in New York City. It’s on a Saturday, it’s going be free, and there’s going to be a big after party.