WBGO Blog
  • Melissa Aldana: The Crash Trio's Jazz en Español

    October 9, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Chilean tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana makes "jazz en español" with The Crash Trio, her group with Chilean bassist Pablo Menares and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. The group performed live for a WBGO broadcast from the Berklee College of Music's Cafe 939 on Wednesday, October 9.

    "Our way of relating with one another - our body language, and our jokes - are different," says Aldana, who won the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. "Latin Americans are very heartfelt, open, and tactile; that's what we're like, and it's a big part of what keeps the group together."

    Aldana visited the WBGO studios ahead of this broadcast and spoke with Tim Wilkins - en español - about jazz in Chile, her early experiences in music and the group.

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    The daughter and grandaughter of jazz saxophonists, Aldana grew up in a house filled with music in Santiago, Chile, where she blew her first notes on an alto sax at age six.

    She moved to Boston in 2006 to accept a Presidential Scholarship at Berklee. Mela was teaching there at the time, and Menares joined the group after she moved to New York in 2009.

    While jazz legends like Wayne Shorter and Don Byas rank high on Aldana's list of influences, she also highlights Chilean folk musicians like Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, and even "chinchineros" -  the musicians who play drums and dance for spare change on the streets of Chile.

    "In downtown Santiago, it's very common to see chinchineros with drums on their back, as they play Andean rhythms while they spin around," says Aldana. "Pablo (Menares) wrote a song for The Crash Trio that incorporates these rhythms; that's one of the ways we're trying to bring these influences in to jazz."

    For more of The Crash Trio, check back for archived audio from WBGO's broadcast of the group, and review the chat below from during the show. Enjoy!