Fusion, alternative, free style and usual standards are icons of Buenos Aires. Jazz lives in the city and its tradition dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, which is always innovating.
Why jazz in Buenos Aires? Because it is one of the most interesting regions of the continent to enjoy this genre, and also because Argentina has the best musicians of the region, together with Chile and Brazil. But if we stop in this great statement, it would mean losing a history rich in curiosities and surprises.
To begin with, if we talk about culture, Buenos Aires is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Latin America. And jazz is a perfect example of that opening to new expressions that at the same time are fed with local idiosyncrasy.
BACK IN THE 20S, WHEN THE GENRE WAS BEING INTRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES, ARGENTINA FORMED THE FIRST BIG BANDS.
In the following decade, the swing was famous worldwide, and locally it was danced at Confitería La Ideal (Suipacha 384, Downtown) and in other city discos with the same enthusiasm as in Paris or New York. Due to this early adoption, Buenos Aires was able to develop a jazz tradition almost in parallel to the United States.
In fact, many Argentine musicians found worldwide success thanks to jazz. The composer Lalo Schifrin became famous in Hollywood thanks to his melody of Mission: Impossible, and because trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie invited him to play together in New York, back in those days. We can also talk about Oscar Aleman, who first refused the offer made by the great Duke Ellington, but then succumbed to the charm of the singer Joséphine Baker, and together they toured all over Europe. In a less connected and globalized world like today, we cannot imagine that the great American masters were so close to Argentine musicians, and this can only be explained with their overwhelming success.
Tango is also related to this. For instance, the incomparable Astor Piazolla was always surrounded by jazz musicians, and this is related to the genre in the sense that despite being universal, it is also open and prone to be influenced. Therefore, listening to jazz in Buenos Aires may also imply finding some hints of Rio de la Plata music, Latin rhythms, and even tango...
Moreover, in the last 30 years, Buenos Aires has experimented a huge growth of jazz institutes and schools, enabling a more professional and popular training. The result: a city full of classic, as well as avant-garde and contemporary standards, where “All's Fair” principle enables constant renewal of the musical offer.
The public also helps. This is shown at the International Festival of Jazz of Buenos Aires, held each November with extremely varied proposals and the performance of local and foreign musicians. The rest of the year, the lovers of the genre (and also first-time curious) have many sites to visit to enjoy this enchanting world, where improvisation sets the tone.
The elegant and sophisticated Notorius Club (Callao 966, Downtown) ranks among the best 150 jazz clubs, according to the American magazine DownBeat annual publication. Here we will see the most famous and settled musicians of the style, and it is an ideal place to visit if you want to enjoy the standards. Another famous site in the city is Thelonious Club (Salguero 1884, Palermo), inspired in the New York nightclubs of the 60s and also ranks in the DownBeat list. But if you want to listen to young and experimental jazz, do not miss Virasoro (Guatemala 4328, Palermo), a bar built in a spectacular Art Deco style house, a work of the famous architect Alejandro Virasoro.
Jazz, together with the sites to enjoy it, are in permanent innovation. Among the most recent openings, we find Bebop Club (Moreno 364, Downtown), one of the favorites of the public and of musicians as well. It is easy to find out why: when you go own the stairs, you go through the door and enter that basement with an old wooden bar and endless mirrors, decorated in red with black and white pictures, you feel like you traveled back to the 50s. In Palermo neighborhood, Boris Club (Gorriti 5568), a warehouse turned into a spectacular site with European style, is a hot spot. Boris is the only location with its own stable big band, made up of 15 musicians -among them, famous musicians like Richard Nant, Juan Cruz de Urquiza, Mariano Sívori and Cirilo Fernández-. The latter is the leader of a another band frequently found at Boris: Fernández 4, maybe the most interesting alternative jazz group nowadays, has among its members the grandson of Astor, the drummer Pipi Piazzolla! So this is an undoubtedly fact: Jazz has for long been an indissoluble part of the city identity.
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