Ahead of a gig in Nuremberg Birdman composer Antonio Sánchez tells marlbank that he hasn’t got a specific soundcheck and pre-gig routine.
“I try to get some sleep because touring makes you sleep deprived. I tend not to have any rituals because they can play mental games with you when you can’t fulfil something.”
As for playing Dublin next week where he will be on at the Sugar Club on Lower Leeson Street this Tuesday evening he tells us that he played in the Irish capital last year for the first time when he was touring with Pat Metheny. Dublin Sánchez says he “loved and the audience even though the gig was in a big booming hall, can’t remember the name, which was very difficult.’’
Next year Sánchez will be concentrating on his own projects and will not be touring with Metheny. His new Migration album Lines in the Sand is a full blown protest, anti-Trump, album the ostensible protest element is in the brief opening police radio, siren, and street found sounds track that then sets up a very pacey rollercoaster feel to what follows.
On tour the band is the same as on the album except in place of bassist Matt Brewer expat Englishman Orlando Le Fleming is on the road along with expat English pianist John Escreet on keyboards, Antonio’s wife Thana Alexa on vocals, and Chase Baird playing tenor sax and EWI.
A blend of pulsating jazz-rock Lines in the Sand delivers more than that bald statement and blunt instrument of “protest” and makes the impetus even more convincing because of this artistic power. Orlando has played with the band before. Sánchez says. “We’re playing new music, complicated music, rhythm playing, and I told the band to learn all the music beforehand so they don’t have to read it off stands.” As for working with Thana, the only difficulty he says is “who gets to the bathroom first in the morning!’’
Sánchez incorporates the role of the singer as another instrument like a trumpet with effects. He tells marlbank: “The voice is very relatable and the advantage is that there are lyrics” which on ‘Home’ certainly allows a more overt evocation of the theme of migration universalised which adds to its message. Sánchez talks about the importance of what home is in a contemporary context, which in America under Trump is demonising immigrants. He says that his own immigrant story coming to New York legally from Mexico City now holding both US and Mexican citizenship was a case of his own good luck. However, many others there are not so lucky. He says that the album isn’t only for the dreamers who have made headlines in their righteous protest against cruel treatment by the authorities but immigrants who have been in America for many years who live undocumented but who also contribute greatly to American society.
“I am lucky in the sense that my family supported me in what I wanted to do. Now we have politicians who are ostracising immigrants and demonising them.” He is encouraged by the strides the Democrats have made at the recent mid-terms and at the recounts since the initial results came in.
Lines in the Sand is not jazz-rock in a 1970s sense although borrows from that instinct to avoid narrowness and embrace the friction-less borders of different styles of music, this has a rugged presence and there are dreamy avant touches courtesy partly in the harmonic underlay that Escreet, a spiky player on his own records, unobtrusively provides. He injects a turbo boost to the Pat Metheny Group-like serenity that is all pervasive throughout, comparable in texture to the mood of say 1997’s Imaginary Day well before Sánchez joined Metheny circa Speaking of Now five years later.
Migration feel like a much bigger unit and are not really in the business of dashing off a procession of solos. That is the skill of the way Sánchez writes and ‘Travesia’ itself is like a concerto and unveils a group think panorama in performance where images and colours emerge to tantalise and enhance the direction of the music.
Before release Sánchez put out a statement that includes his thoughts that he believes: “Donald Trump has agitated a false, misguided sense of nationalism that has slammed minorities’ backs against the wall… A lot of artists are not open about their political views, but to me it’s part of the artist’s duty to speak up and make people think. Either literally or through art.” Few would disagree with that sentiment. He elaborates in this interview by saying that not just artists but everyone has become more politicised since Trump came in. He says that “not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist and xenophobe. But every racist and xenophobe voted for him.”
Turning to Birdman Sánchez says when asked about how surprised he was when people thought a drum score was not even composition deadpans: “Playing chopsticks can be composition.”
Based in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York city, which is a very diverse community, he tells marlbank that he is not so much part of the local New York scene as he was once through touring commitments. As for his ongoing relationship with CAM Jazz he takes his future plans at an album-by-album pace and says “he is a loyal guy”. The only change would be if any project he does is less jazzy, perhaps spooling in a more electronica direction.