C-U Jazz Fest guest 'a composer who plays drums'

C-U Jazz Fest guest 'a composer who plays drums'

VICTOR BASTIDAS and his De Paises Project are among the stars of the Champaign-Urbana Jazz Festival. He plays at 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Iron Post. Staff writer Paul Wood asked him a few questions about his career, which extends from Colombia to Miami to Chicago.

1. Why jazz; why drums?

My dad was a very avid record collector. His collection included music from Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Beethoven, Bach, great salsa and Latin jazz. Nobody in my family was a musician, but music was a big passion for me since a young age. So I joined an after-school music program at 12. I worked on my theory and ear training as well as my first snare lessons.

2. Do you compose on the drums?

I consider myself a composer who plays the drums. It is my absolute passion and what makes me feel alive. I composed music before I was playing drums. I have always experimented with the piano to compose. My first drum set I got at 15. Before then I was always borrowing drums from different friends.

3. You started out in Colombia as a drummer. What brought you here?

I discovered a lot of great jazz al-bums and pretty soon I knew I wanted to play jazz. The move to the U.S. was the correct next step in the process of learning about this music; it is the most representative American art form. I moved to Miami, as I got an offer to study at Florida International University with a full scholarship. Miami is packed with amazing musicians, but at the time the scene was not as big as in other cities. I used to play a jam session every Wednesday night for five years. The last tour I did there was in 2013, and I noticed the scene getting way bigger.

4. What do you like about the music scene in Illinois?

I have to say that my favorite place in the U.S. is Chicago. It was a big change for me, as I first moved to DeKalb, where Northern Illinois University is. It is not a very big town, but I feel very connected to all the friends and people I got a chance to meet there. I have been living in Chicago for almost three years and totally love it! Amazing players, great vibe, great venues and a beautiful city.

5. You've played alongside such jazz legends as Michael Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito De Rivera, Nestor Torres and Gary Campbell. Out of all of those, do you have two or three favorite moments?

Most definitely the concert we played with the FIU big band with Michael Brecker. It was a beautiful moment, as I had been a huge fan of the records "Tales From The Hudson" and "Time Is Of The Essence," and we played music from those albums, so it was a very special moment. He was very encouraging and cheered us on at every opportunity he had.

6. Your De Paises Project — which got its start in Miami — has recorded two albums in New York. Tell us about it.

The project started in 2003 with two sax students of David Sanchez and Miguel Zenon from Puerto Rico. Since then, many great players haven taken part in concerts and recordings — including Roy Assaf, Luques Curtis, Alex Norris, Fabian Almazan, Reggie Thomas, Adam Larson, Clark Sommers, Samuel Torres, Rich Moore, Victor Garcia, Dustin Laurenzi, Paul Bedal, Wes Morgan, Brandon Wright and many more. I try to write music with open spaces to feature every musician that participates on it.

7. Where do you see your career going next?

I am very exited about my upcoming album, "Tales of a Latin-American Traveler," and hope I can bring it to many places around the globe, and share the experience with as many people as possible.

If you go

What: Third annual Champaign-Urbana Jazz Festival.

Where: Jazz venues in Champaign and Urbana.

When: Formally kicks off Oct. 19 with Ron Bridgewater Quartet at Krannert UnCorked, open to the public. There will be a reserved place for a small gathering of festival invitees, donors and sponsors, said Jenelle Orcherton, the festival's artistic director.

Highlights: Among others, Orcherton recommends Victor Bastidas and De Paises Project, combining his Latino and American musical experience; Rachel Therrien, who recently released her new album "Why Don't You Try"; and guitarist Tom Lippincott. Besides performances, the musicians will offer master classes.

Topics (2):Music, People