June 20, 2024


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Antonio Sanchez: To speak up and make people think. Either literally or through art: Video

01.11. – Happy Birthday !!! Riding the crest of a musical wave that began with his Golden Globe and BAFTA-nominated score for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Academy Award-winning film, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), followed by soundtracks composed for director Fernando León de Aranoa’s Política, Manual de Instrucciones, and EPIX network’s Get Shorty, drummer/composer Antonio Sánchez returns with his most personal work to date, Bad Hombre.

Bad Hombre is an experimental project in that it’s a complete departure from anything I’ve ever done in the past as a drummer, composer, producer and engineer,” Sánchez says. “I didn’t have a blueprint; it was all new to me. It was a steep, stressful, intriguing, and an amazingly fun learning curve.

Erupting from Sánchez’s subconscious, Bad Hombre is a suite of fervent solo drumming improvisations infused with surreal electronic textures which create potent and volcanic modes of self-expression–yet another ingenious turn from the gifted 45-year-old musician. Erupting from Sánchez’s subconscious, Bad Hombre is a suite of fervent solo drumming improvisations infused with surreal electronic textures which create potent and volcanic modes of self-expression–yet another ingenious turn from the gifted 45-year-old musician.

“Becoming an American citizen was a very proud moment for me,” Sánchez says. “I’ve been in this country for almost 25 years and I truly believe it’s a unique country of immigrants of different races, backgrounds and religions that can ultimately coexist. New York City is a petri dish for this fascinating sociological and cultural experiment, but Donald Trump has agitated a false, misguided sense of nationalism that has slammed minorities’ backs against the wall. His constant conspiracy theories about voter fraud are nothing but a plan to implement widespread voter suppression.

“A lot of artists are not open about their political views, but to me it’s part of the artist’s duty,” he continues. “To speak up and make people think. Either literally or through art.” 

Bad Hombre also exposes Sánchez’s alter ego: a driven composer of riotous, calming, and occasionally dark-hearted electronic music-scapes. (Think Miles Davis’ Live-Evil meets Squarepusher’s Feed Me Weird Things paired to Aphex Twin’s Syro and Pan Sonic’s Atomin Paluu). Bad Hombre sets free some of the most primal and kinetic drumming of Sánchez’s career, delivered with all the blistering passion of a battle cry. The album confirms Sánchez—the solo drummer-as-storyteller—as one of the most talented and inventive musicians of his generation.

Compositional in nature, free-form in execution, Bad Hombre is one bad . . .

“I’ve followed a similar approach and creative process for every one of my previous solo records,” Sánchez continues, “trying to tell a story via good melodies, appealing harmonies and solid grooves. Storytelling is a crucial part of my compositional and improvisational process and I wanted to challenge myself to write the equivalent of a musical novel. That came to fruition with my previous album, The Meridian Suite (an hour-plus long piece meant to be played nonstop from beginning to end). But I wanted Bad Hombre to tell a completely different story.”

Bad Hombre crowns an extraordinary period in the Mexico City-born musician’s life. Following 17 years as one of the most revered collaborators of renowned guitarist/composer Pat Metheny, touring the world and appearing on ten recordings with the guitarist’s various ensembles, Sánchez took part in the next phase of Metheny’s storied career, as a member of his Unity Band, Unity Group, and new Metheny Quartet with pianist Gwilym Simcock and bassist Linda Oh. Sánchez also appeared as a featured musician in Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic. Director John Jencks’ British comedy, The Hippopotamus (written and starring Stephen Fry), is yet another soundtrack enlightened by Sánchez’ now trademark compositional subtleties. These events preceded Sánchez’s work with Spanish film director Fernando León de Aranoa for political documentary, Política, Manual de Instrucciones, and his soundtrack for the EPIX network series, Get Shorty.

This astonishing run was paved by years of hard work which included a recent trio album turn, and one of two albums recorded with his brilliant quintet, Migration. These remarkably diverse releases spotlighted Sánchez’s evolution as a composer and band leader. Three Times Three showcased Sánchez at his improvisatory best with three different but equally iconic all-star trios; while the sweeping The Meridian Suite featured an hour-long electro-acoustic suite penned for Migration.

“I’d been trying to expand my horizons as a composer,” Sánchez noted. “These two albums were so radically different that I hope they’ll showcase two completely different sides of me.”

That range only added to the multi-faceted dimensions Sánchez has shown to audiences over the years, culminating in his exhilarating score for Birdman. Despite being disqualified from Oscar contention – for arcane reasons having to do with the use of pre-existing classical music on the soundtrack – Sánchez’s innovative drums-only score won top honors at other important award shows and contributed immensely to the film’s success at that year’s Academy Awards ceremony, where it won four awards including Best Picture. While Sánchez was understandably disappointed by the Oscar snub, he took home the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. Sánchez acknowledged the outcry against the Academy Award decision, saying, “The work speaks for itself.”

On Three Times Three, Sánchez assembled three different trios, a format which allows for incredible intimacy and interplay and in which he’s enjoyed considerable success as drummer for three-man groups led by the likes of Metheny and pianist Danilo Pérez. The trio configurations on Three Times Three were impressive: pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Matt Brewer; guitarist John Scofield and bassist Christian McBride; and saxophonist Joe Lovano and bassist John Patitucci.

While Sánchez has played with many of jazz’s most acclaimed and influential bandleaders since his arrival in the States in 1993–a staggering list that includes Metheny, Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden, Gary Burton, Joshua Redman, and Toots Thielmans–Sánchez was wary of pursuing an “all-star project” for Three Times Three, allowing that such recordings are often more impressive for the names on the cover than the music contained within.

“The chemistry can be completely off,” Sánchez explained. “I wanted to achieve an all star project that would still feel intimate and allow the musicians to stretch as much as possible.”

As well as original material, the Three Times Three trios covered the music of Wayne Shorter (“Fall”), Miles Davis (“Nardis”), and Thelonious Monk (“I Mean You”).

Sánchez’s experience composing the Birdman score was heavily influential on the cinematic scope of The Meridian Suite, his second release with Migration.

“The movie was basically one long continuous shot,” he explained, referring to the film’s illusion of being shot in a single take as it follows Michael Keaton through his Broadway breakdown. “That’s also what I wanted to do with this suite; to the listener it should be seamless.”

The Meridian Suite took full advantage of the wide-ranging palette of Migration, the quintet that Sánchez has led since 2011. Tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake doubles on Electric Wind Instrument (EWI), John Escreet on piano and Fender Rhodes, Matt Brewer on both acoustic and electric bass, and Thana Alexa on vocals and percussion. Sánchez also layered keyboard atmospherics onto the album along with a wide array of guitars from Adam Rogers, while Alexa contributed soaring lyrics to the second movement, “Imaginary Lines,” and coloristic wordless vocals elsewhere.

With motifs, phrases and concepts that recur and transform throughout the piece’s five movements, The Meridian Suite was a thrillingly adventurous achievement that absorbed influences from modern rock, free-form improvisation and electronic music into a forward-looking jazz masterwork.

“I took a lot of liberties and let a lot of my musical influences come through in a very unapologetic way,” the composer reflected.

The simultaneous 2015 release of Three Times Three and The Meridian Suite marked a brief period in a career continually in ascension. Receiving unprecedented attention following his lauded Birdman score, the ensuing albums and soundtracks served to reinforce Antonio Sánchez’s place at the forefront of modern jazz—breaking boundaries as virtuoso drummer, visionary composer, and inspired musical thinker.

Forthcoming from Sánchez and master composer/arranger Vince Mendoza and the celebrated WDR of Cologne is Channels of Energy (CAM Jazz), featuring some of Sánchez’s favorite compositions performed by the exceptional WDR musicians (abetted by Antonio’s drumming). The collaboration is an incredibly exiting one with Mendoza injecting his signature sound and style into the drummer’s challenging and eclectic music with the WDR band providing superb musicianship.

Born in Mexico City on November 1st, 1971, Antonio Sánchez began playing the drums at age five and performed professionally in his early teens. Antonio pursued a degree in classical piano at the National Conservatory in Mexico and in 1993 moved to Boston where he enrolled at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in Jazz Studies.

Since relocating to New York City in 1999, Antonio has become one of the most sought-after drummers in the international jazz scene. His playing is featured in over a hundred albums, and he has been the drummer of choice for 20-time Grammy winner Pat Metheny and has been part of virtually every project the famed guitarist has created since 2000. Sanchez and Metheny have recorded ten albums together (Speaking of Now, The Way Up, Day Trip, Tokyo Day Trip, Quartet Live, Unity Band, Tap: Book of Angels Volume 20, KIN (←→), The Unity Sessions), three of which have been awarded the Grammy.

Sánchez has also collaborated with today’s most prominent jazz musicians including Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Christian McBride, John Patitucci, Donny McCaslin, Danilo Perez, David Sanchez, Paquito D’Rivera, Kenny Werner, Marcus Roberts, Avishai Cohen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Miguel Zenon, Scott Colley, Dave Samuels, Luciana Souza, Billy Childs, and Claudia Acuña, to name a few.

Antonio’s continuous search as an artist has inspired him to compose and lead his own bands and ensembles. He has released five critically acclaimed albums as a leader. His debut, Migration (CAM Jazz, 2007) was called “one of the best new releases of 2007” by All About Jazz and featured an impressive cast which included Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Chris Potter, David Sanchez and Scott Colley. His second solo effort, Live in New York (CAM Jazz, 2010) was recorded during a four-day run at the Jazz Standard in New York City. New Life (CAM Jazz, 2013), Three Times Three (CAM Jazz, 2014, Europe/2015, US) and The Meridian Suite (CAM Jazz, 2015) followed.

Blessed by fate and hard work, Sánchez’s career blossomed with Birdman (soundtrack available on Milan Records), Política, Manual de Instrucciones, Get Shorty, and in Japan, Kirin Tea, for whom Sánchez’s compositions have become a recognizable part of daily television. The forthcoming Channels of Energy with Vince Mendoza and the WDR Big Band confirms Sánchez’s compositions and drumming dynamism.

Jazz vibraphonist and innovator Gary Burton recognized Antonio’s writing early on, featuring his compositions on two releases, Common Ground and Guided Tour, which included four of Antonio’s original compositions (the former album was named after his composition of the same name).

Antonio has taken part in drum festivals, clinics and master classes around the world, including the “Modern Drummer Festival Weekend”, “Zildjian Day” and the “Montreal Drum Festival.”

He has been a featured cover artist in some of the most widely read drum and jazz magazines in the industry including Downbeat (USA), Modern Drummer (USA and Brazil), Percussioni, JazzIt and Drumset (Italy), Drums and Percussion (Germany) and Musico Pro (USA). Antonio has won many international polls and was ranked #1 jazz drummer in Modern Drummer Magazine Readers’ Polls (for 2015 and 2016) and JazzTimes Critics Poll 2015.

He’s endorsed by Yamaha Drums, Zildjian Cymbals and Sticks (Antonio Sanchez Signature model), Remo Drumheads and LP Percussion.

Antonio Sánchez has made his home in New York City since 1999.

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