Familia
Release Date: February 23, 2024
Label: Greenleaf

Having played together for more than a decade, refining a chemistry and musical telepathy that defines their signature sound, Familia is the consummate expression of this talented trio, as well as the kinship they feel for each other, their collective Families, and the larger community supporting their music.

Hailing from Chile, (Recabarren and Menares) and Galicia, Spain (Vazquez) these young artists embed a wealth of cultural experiences to their musical dexterity. Paying tribute to the music of their childhoods, the trio utilizes a variety of folkloric musical traditions into an album that like many within Pan-Latin Jazz, hybridizes various cultural attributes into compositions that reflect the complexities of our modern world. Fearless, comfortable with a variety of genres and styles of music, a deep trust and confidence binds their collective musical ambitions.

Migrating to New York City in 2009, Recabarren and Menares quickly found themselves in similar social circles as students and artists navigating the magnetic pulse of the Jazz capital of the US. Soon they bumped into Vazquez and began sharing a collective passion for “futbol,” food, family, and the burgeoning dynamic of how well they collaborated together. As a young trio, Recabarren quickly discovered that his bass and piano playing companions had a very unique way of communicating musically. “It’s kind of like telepathy,” Recabarren describes, adding “they just accept each other. It’s just like a conversation with a good group of friends and a bottle of wine.” For the trio, Familia is an expression of shared mutual experiences but also the curiosity required to explore how personal identity shapes the music they wish to explore. As Recabarren sees it, “there are few things more important than identity. I moved to the states to learn about US folklore and in the process I found myself.”

Below the surface of musical journeys like Familia are the personal and cultural attributes that make Pan-Latin Jazz so special. Each song, rhythm, chord structure or melody is an opportunity to explore one’s life through the prism of the vast experiences that shape a musical personality. For Recabarren and Menares, that’s all things Chile, with its treasure trove of folkloric traditions like “chin-chin” street rhythms or the musical legacies of icons like Violeta Parra and Víctor Jara that percolated throughout their childhood under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Meanwhile Vazquez is innately connected to Galicia’s rich cultural history. In both cases you’ll find seasoned musicians negotiating their way through Jazz en route to resurrecting a sincere appreciation for their cultural homelands.

Take for example “Santiago”the song that opens the album. Named after Recabarren’s son, it’s built on the phenomenon of Colombia’s cumbia beat, illustrating the glorious ways the trio combines Latin rhythmic structures with the melodic sensibilities of contemporary Jazz. Vazquez’s composition “Terra” (Galician for “land”) floats between the region’s popular 3/4 xota rhythm, and the 6/8 energy of the chacarera beat that reverberates throughout Argentina. Always layered, featuring glimpses of the various influences the trio has absorbed to date, Familia continues with “Ritual”, a reflective meditation on Menares’ interpretation of the “sacred quality of studying, practicing and making music.”

Metered as if marking the passage of time itself, “Aninovo (New Year’s Day)” celebrates the life of Vazquez’s grandfather who miraculously was born and passed away on January 1st several decades apart. Sticking with a pensive theme is Menares’ Viaje, his introspective journey inspired by caporales, the Bolivian folklore dance that neatly utilizes 3/4 and 6/8 time signatures within the 4/4 melodic framework of the song.  As Menares describes it, “no matter where you go, you bring your roots with you. There’s always rhythms like this within the background of your life.” And apparently waterways too as Minho, the river dividing Galicia and Portugal, provides the picturesque background for a gorgeous ballad that flows as mercurially as the tributary it portrays.

Next we travel to “Castro”, a central park district within the city of Vigo, the site of the prehistoric landscape where the first inhabitants of Galicia settled. Lively and spirited, Vazquez uses this playful musical backdrop to describe the joy he’s experienced within the expansive garden his family and friends have gathered for years. Originally penned as a song to commemorate his life partner, Recabarren’s “Lazo” gets a gentle nudge from the arranging chops of Menares and Vazquez and a faint harmonious nod to the band Radiohead. Famila ends with “Después de Todo (After All)”an artful finish incorporating the harmonic nuance of “Guinga” or the musical stylings of the legendary composer, guitarist and vocalist Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar. It also speaks to the written work of the Chilean author Jorge Teillier, whose poem by the same name speaks to the influence of the community of relationships we nurture within our lifetimes.

Which elegantly brings us back to the theme of family. And not just blood relatives, but families of choice; families that help shape our identities, mold our creative passions and then see that those aspirations are brought to life. “We all migrated to NYC together and created a family,” Recabarren recalls, remembering the years spent learning about themselves as much as they did mastering the mechanics of Jazz. For the trio, Jazz has been the vehicle of choice to engage and explore the total circumference of their musical lives. “I think Jazz does that to people” Recabarren believes. “It’s a language that allows you to explore beauty, subjects in depth, and I think that I’m realizing this through this album as well.”

CRAIG BYRD
CULTURAL ATTACHE
"This is a beautifully performed album filled with tons of emotion and, most importantly, good music." Check out the full review here.

JIM HYNES
MAKING A SCENE 
"His rolling bass line is especially impressive. Much of the drumming is so light on the album that it often sounds as if Recabarren is wielding castanets." Check out the full review here.

STEPHEN GRAHAM
MARL BANK
"Vazquez tune 'Castro' is recommendable with its shapely swinging sense, as too is Menares' persuasive 'Ritual' and its engaging mooch." Check out the full review here.

TSF JAZZ EDITOR
TSF JAZZ
"Two Chileans, one Spanish: the trio of drummer Rodrigo Recabarren is a nice mix of jazz and Latin inspirations." Check out the full review here.

RICHARD B. KAMINS
STEP TEMPEST 
"The music is conversational and, on occasion, fiery but articulate and emotionally rich." Check out the full review here.

MICHAEL TOLAND
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"His relaxed riffing and angular chord work encourages the tunes to be melodic but not too comfortable, the trio slipping an addictive tension into the performances without toppling over into dissonance." Check out the full review here.

MORGAN ENOS
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
Check out this thoughtful interview here.

THIERRY DE CLEMENSAT
PARIS MOVE
"Each song, rhythm, chord structure, or melody is an opportunity to explore life through the prism of the vast experiences that shape a musical personality." Check out the full review here.

EDITOR
MODERN DRUMMER
"Familia is not a “Latin-Jazz” record, it is a “Jazz-Latin” or maybe more appropriately a Chilean-Jazz record. The members of the trio composed all of this richly harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic music. Whatever you call it, Familia is a beautiful record filled with beautiful music…" Check out the full review here.