Chano Domínguez, the Spanish pianist-composer-bandleader, is a Cádiz native and innovator of what many have described as flamenco jazz. He may be best known in the U.S. for his work with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO). Marsalis was on tour in the mid–1990s and, hearing Chano's trio at the Café Central de Madrid, asked to sit in. The two stayed in touch and Marsalis invited Chano and Paco de Lucia to compose and perform with JLCO, both in New York and at the Montreal Jazz Festival, L'Auditori de Barcelona, and the Festival de Jazz de Vitoria-Gazteiz (Spain), a project wherein American tap would find exuberant kinship with baile flamenco. (See a video at the end of this article).
Domínguez also appeared in Fernando Trueba's Latin jazz documentary Calle 54 (2000), and has worked with the likes of Paco de Lucia, Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent, Martirio, Tomatito, Mario Rossy, Ana Belén, Marta Valdés, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdés, Paquito de Rivera, Jerry González, Michel Camilo, Jack DeJohnette, and Herbie Hancock.
Chano was one of three artists invited to reinterpret Miles Davis's Kind of Blue to commemorate the album's 50th-anniversary, part of the 2009 Voll-Damm Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona—which garnered other distinctive takes by Cuban pianist Omar Sosa (Eggun, Otá 2013), and by the So What Band, led by Jimmy Cobb, the sole survivor of the original 1959 recording session. Chano also presented his interpretation later that year at the Jazz Standard (Flamenco Sketches, Blue Note 2012).
Chano relocated to Brooklyn in August 2016 following a two-year teaching stint at the University of Washington School of Music (previously he taught at the Barcelona Taller de Músics, the Music Conservatory of Bogotá, and the Julliard School). New York was a natural choice, as he observes, “I never feel like a foreigner here. New York is the city for music—there are so many good musicians here.” We spoke in mid-March 2017, the morning after he hosted his first house concert, for an audience of some 45 people, backed by longtime collaborator Javier Colina, the bassist, and other Spanish friends.
Over the Rainbow, Chano's new solo recording, draws from a live February 2012 date at Barcelona's Palau Falguera, combining Latin American canciones with Chano's original compositions and pieces by Thelonious Monk (“Evidence,” “Monk's Dream), Harold Arlen (the title track), and John Lewis (“Django).
Chano's inventive reworking of several Latin American popular classics is most striking: Chilean Violeta Parra (“Gracias a la vida”), Argentine Atahualpa Yupanqui (“Los ejes de mi carreta”), and from Cuba, Eliseo Grenet (“Drume negrita”) and Marta Valdés (“Hacia donde”; Chano recorded an entire album with Valdés in 2000, Tú No Sospechas).
Chano observes, “Latin American popular music has been part of my life for a long time. These are profoundly expressive songs that I developed a deep feeling for from my youth.” A similar sentiment resonates through his immersion in the American jazz songbook, extensive work with new flamenco guitarists Niño Josele and Gerardo Núñez, and collaborations with flamenco singers including Enrique Morente, Conchi Heredia, Blas Córdoba, Tomatito, and Martirio. Unlike his previous releases, however, the flamenco influence is largely suggestive here, most evident on the Domínguez original “Mantreria.”
The album's other original is “Marcel,” a ballad named after his 15–year-old son, a saxophonist who recently joined his proud father onstage for the first time, along with Colina on bass and drummer Guillermo McGill, at JazzFermín in Pamplona, Spain.
“As with Latin American popular song, I have a profound sense of connection with Monk's music—he is one of the most prolific and concrete of jazz composers. But I interpret each of these songs in my own way, according to my rhythmic understanding, which comes from flamenco. Miles too, his music enchants me. He was un artista muy flamenco, maybe he didn't know it, but there's so much flamenco feeling there, and that's how I play it. Latin American canción, Miles, Monk, jazz standards, these songs have become integral to my musical being.” Over the Rainbow conveys the contemplative side of one of the masters of jazz improvisatory performance, the next best thing to being there. - Michael Stone
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