Catching Up With Trumpeter Jorge Vistel

A chat with the Cuban leader and sideman

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Esther Cidoncha

Jorge Vistel

The Cuban trumpet player Jorge Vistel has distinguished himself as one of the most personal voices on the European jazz scene. His music is linked to tradition but his inquisitiveness has led to a very contemporary style. His latest album, Cimarrón (Inner Circle, 2014), was recorded in a trio format with bassist Reiner Elizarde and drummer Michael Olivera.

Currently living in Madrid, Vistel has had a prolific career as a leader but has also established himself as an in-demand sideman for great musicians during their European tours, including Roy Hargrove, David Murray, Benny Golson, Henry Cole and Marcus Printup, among others.

What is the story behind the music on Cimarrón?

As its name implies, Cimarrón is a slave who escaped and fought to follow his goal: reaching freedom. This album was created with this spirit, having a personal goal as my artistic evolution. |

Does the concept shape the writing of the music?

Of course, they complement each other. Music is shaped by the ideas that give rise to the compositions I’ll develop afterwards.

What influences shape your style?

I think style is fundamental. It is really important having a personal playing style. Mine is shaped by traditional influences, combined with my Afro-Cuban roots and inspired by the avant-garde jazz stream.

There is a lack of harmony in this music. Why?

It’s not necessary. In this case, the album is based on the Yoruba religion, in which the singing was accompanied by three drums. These drums are reflected in each musician of the trio. While creating polyrhythm the harmony is not essential.

Which role does each musician follow then?

Each musician follows a different rhythm line that combined together results in a whole. A clear example would be the fourth tune of the album, “Rancheador.”

How did you come to record for the Inner Circle Music label?

This opportunity came through Greg Osby, who I met in Poland while touring with David Murray. As a label director, Greg offered me to be part of his catalog, which was really attractive to me. It is really valuable that someone who has already travelled this path gives support to the new generations, which are bringing new fresh ideas to the music panorama. Greg, besides being one of the most innovative and prestigious musicians of the contemporary jazz scene, is helping many young talented musicians, something that no doubt honors him.

You are working on a new album. Will you continue with the same idea or will it represent a change?

I’ll keep going along the same line, based on the Afro-Cuban culture. The difference will be the approach to the music, as this time it will include a harmonic instrument, a piano. But both of them will share spirituality and rhythm.

Have you already planned the recording?

It is planned for this year. It will be recorded in Madrid and it launched by Fresh Sound Records. I am still setting up the band, as it will be an international quartet-trumpet, piano, bass and drums-so we need to match their agendas in order to confirm they can be in it.

What do you think Cuban musicians represent in the jazz world?

Cuban musicians have played a really important role since the beginning of jazz because of the proximity between Cuba and the U.S., among other things. The Cuban traditional music has much to do with jazz; we just need to pay attention to how many boleros have become jazz standards. Mario Bauzá, Chico O´Farrill, Chano Pozo and Machito are just few names that have made history by launching Latin-jazz music.

Which are your objectives for this year?

To continue with Cimarrón presentations, launching my next album in a quartet format and also to keep developing my playing.