Flamenco and Jazz
An interview with Chano Domínguez

October 6, 2017

We have met Chano Domínguez during his recent tour in Taiwan.

You started playing flamenco and then moved to jazz; do you think this somehow let your style become different and personal? If yes, how?
My first instrument was a flamenco guitar and this was the first music I’ve ever heard as a child and that, therefore, has affected all the music I’m now playing on piano. I’ve always been fascinated by playing with the rhythms of my country… and by improvising. All of this made it possible, over the years, to develop a language starting from flamenco and improvised music. I believe that starting from the 1970’s and through the 1990’s a style was created not only by me, but also by other Spanish musicians, a style that record companies have named “flamenco jazz”, or “jazz flamenco”, that strongly affected all Spanish musicians that have been successful inside and outside our country. So I believe that yes, the fact of being born in Cadiz and having lived my childhood surrounded by flamenco world gave me special features, that probably other musicians from other countries don’t have, they probably have other features connected to the culture of their own country.
You just played in Taiwan; what do you think of Asian jazz scene? And of Asian jazz musicians?
I didn’t have the opportunity of playing a lot in Asia. I’ve been to the 3rd Beijing Jazz Festival in 1995, and I had played for 5 consecutive days in 2011 at Tokyo Blue Note. What I felt was that my music is very appreciated in this continent: I remember that when I played in Beijing, in a theatre with a capacity of 2,800 persons next to Tiananmen Square, the audience reaction was really incredible. Also when we played at Tokyo Blue Note the concerts were sold out for all five days and each day I had to stay for an extra hour after the concerts in order to sign the records that people were buying. I don’t know a lot about Asian artistic scene but what I’m aware of is that there is an emerging scene because, as I live in New York, there are more and more Asian students studying at New School, Berkeley, or other schools, and there are more and more students coming from Asia.
You are European but you live in the US, and teach as well; in your opinion are there differences between European and American teaching approaches? What are the differences?
As a matter of fact, I’m not a musician completely dedicating himself to teaching, but I held many workshops and courses in several places in the US as well as in Europe. I believe that, maybe, musicians coming to workshops in the US are more informed, have more data as, obviously, jazz music was created in their country and owns there a very strong background.
Anyway I believe that, in case of talented musicians, there are no differences between European or American musicians. We have today a lot of information, it’s very different from 30 years ago, when the only thing you could do was to buy a record and listen to it once, then another time and again and again, until you were able to emulate, imitate and play it very well. Nowadays there are so many information, so that when young people attend a workshop or a school, they already have a lot of data and, therefore, there’s no such a difference due to their origins. The only difference, maybe, is that as Europeans we have a different background from Americans. The Americans’ background comes directly from soul, gospel, blues and all the genres that formed jazz language; on the contrary, in Europe we have a more classical background and that’s probably the reason for the difference.
What would you suggest to a young student wishing to become professional?
If you want to be a jazz professional musician, a creative music, the first thing you have to keep in mind is that jazz is a long term path, it’s not a work you accomplish in one year. You must have a lot of tenacity and perseverance, you must try to play and learn something every day. I believe it is very interesting to look for something creative every day, when you approach a jazz musician instrument. This is the important thing, to me: focus on working every day and find something creative. That’s the reason why I’m an improvised music musician, because I love to be astonished by myself, and this happens by creating and by discovering that the same chord or the same scale can be performed in many different ways. I advise young musicians to have perseverance, never think that you have learnt it all, because this never happens. I have a 40-year career as a musician and I still feel like a student. I’m very experienced but I still need to learn things, because this is what makes me feel updated.
Music and web: streaming, YouTube, Spotify, etc.: a gift or a curse?
I think that new technology is, from one side, really helping us. As I said in my previous answer, information that musicians have nowadays are limitless thanks to the web but, at the same time, they damaged us a lot as far as musical industry is concerned. I remember the 1990’s when I sold thousands and thousands of copies each time I recorded an album, and now when I sell 5 thousand copies I consider it a very impressive success. You don’t sell all this copies anymore because people download, listen to you in YouTube, in Spotify… Streaming is something that is damaging musicians a lot, because benefits don’t go to musicians but to big record companies; big corporations split the cake, and a very small part remains for small record companies. How this is split is not very clear. It’s a double edged sword, something that helped us in terms of visibility but that, on the other side, also damaged us. We must continue to record albums but we know that probably they won’t sell, and that there’s no way to find a new format we can sell and that can bring us economic benefits, as far as recorded music is concerned.

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