The Other Part of the Whole
The shape of Juani Mendez

Image Credits: Juani Mendez © Fernando Ibarra

October 24, 2017
Juani Mendez is a talented saxophonist and Argentine composer; we reached him in Buenos Aires to talk about his latest album and much more
> Ivano Rossato

You recently published the album Otra parte del todo, can you tell us something about it?
We recorded it last year in November, with Ernesto Jodos on piano, Mauricio Dawid on double bass and Sebastián Groshaus on drums. It’s my second release and it represents the continuity of my first album, Diez Construcciones Fáciles (2014). About the title, I thought how that release would work into my entire life. You always have some doubts if you and your music are really ok or not, and after all that, I realize that it’s simply another part of everything, as important and good as it is. It’s very important for me to give it to other people, to let other people hear it, love it, or even hate it or whatever. Music is important in itself.

In this album, you played with different musicians from those you cooperated with on the first one…
I really like sharing different ideas and changing the musicians lets me feel how they feel music. I look for good timing, good comping and feelings about the music. In the making of Otra parte del todo,  everybody was comfortable from the first rehearsal and that was very important for me because I thought that they really understood what I wanted to say with my compositions. They made an effort to do that with so many ideas and that gave new life to the music.
You have spent some time in New York, what are the major differences compared to Buenos Aires?
The biggest one is that in New York there are so many places to play, and so many things going on! Here in Buenos Aires, in the last 10 years especially, a beautiful jazz scene has grown but nothing compared to New York. The offer there is so huge that one time I was listening to Joe Lovano and there were 5 people, it was like “He’s playing just for me!”
What non jazz music influenced you as a musician?
I listen to a lot of different genres but the thing about the music that really interests me is not the concept of genre but the one of shape, form and architecture. How the form of solos can exist and be played on the form of the song; and the structure of the songs on the structure of the whole album. That’s the biggest influence for me: shapes. And I can find that in every kind of music; in Schönberg, rock, John Coltrane, Kenny Garrett. It’s an open minded approach and it is also from this that the title of the album came out.
You teach improvisation and sax at UTEC (Universidad Tecnológica del Uruguay); what is the most important lesson for your students?
The most important thing that everybody should know, not only musicians, is that all the knowledge is in you, if you look inside you, you will find everything. You have to trust yourself because you are the most important thing.
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