Q: What got you into playing jazz in the first place, how long have you been playing, and some of the musicians you've worked with?
A: My hometown is Barcelona, and while I've mostly lived here, I've also spent time teaching and performing in Madrid, Zaragoza, Lleida and Valencia. I've been a professional musician for 30 years. My interest in jazz started with my parents, who were big fans of the classic jazz of the Forties and Fifties. That was the popular music of their generation, and their records were the first music I fell in love with. Later my attention was drawn to the rock, blues, and R&B that incorporated aspects of jazz, or the other way around. It was in the Seventies that I started studying formally, starting with the "Zeleste" school, which was the first school in Barcelona to teach modern music. Two of the professors, Jordi Bonell and Albert Cubero, were huge influences on me and remain two of my favourite guitarists. Years later I ended up playing with Cubero, which was a period of great learning for me, personally and professionally. I was lucky to be able to combine teaching (guitar, bass, and theory) with performing in big bands, dance bands, and accompanying soloists.
Q: Tell us a little about your experiences as a professor. Who are some of the students you've worked with?
A: At this point in my career I've taught hundreds of students. Some of them are Llorenç Ametller, Javier Mas, Carles Benavent, and Euclydes Mattos, a great Brazilian guitarist now living in New York. In the Nineties I participated in the creation of the Escola de Músics de Lleida and in Barcelona the Escola de Música Blues en Sol. It was during this period that I began to spend a lot of time organising jam sessions with the students at Barcelona venues such as London Bar, Jamboree, others, so that students would have a public outlet for their music.
Q: What is the philosophy behind your teaching methods?
A: I've learned that the experience of teaching, learning, and playing music is unique to each individual, and that personalised attention is the only way to really deepen a person's interest and increase their level of musicianship. The overly rigid methods that are sometimes used to teach classical music, for example, don't work when teaching jazz. I approach every student differently.
Q: In your opinion, who are or were some of the most important musicians in the jazz scene in Barcelona?
A: Without doubt the greatest musician was pianist and composer Tete Montoliu—he was respected everywhere, in Spain and in the US and other parts of the world. We, in Barcelona, were so lucky to be able to see him play from just a few metres away in small clubs like La Cova del Drac. He was a master. Today, I am a big fan of artists like Raynald Colom, a great trumpet player. Also Ximo Tebar, a Valencian, who has played a lot in Barcelona, though he also spends time in the States. I've also always been very interested by the fusion of jazz with other styles, such as flamenco, Latin music, rock…Chano Dominguez from Cádiz, who lived here until recently, is a great example, or Ximo Tebar and Jorge Pardo, who have developed a jazzy language that incorporate elements of other genres and is incredibly original.
Q: How has the world of teaching and performing jazz changed in the past 30 years?
A: The main difference is that it was once a personal adventure. The circle of people involved was smaller, so as a student, you had a very individualised relationship with your teachers. There was a large component of self-teaching, so to speak, and self-discovery. While it's great that the circle of musicians playing, teaching and learning jazz is wider than in the past, you can see its effect on the teaching methods: We have school with very specific programmes, institutionalised environments, overcrowding, a lack of originality in terms of style. You see it in the schools, so therefore you see it in the musicians coming out of the schools.
Q: What role has the local government played in developing the jazz and/or music scene in general in the city?
A: The ‘good times’ of jazz happened in the Nineties, when both private and institutional grants were a huge help. There was some government funding, too, but over the years, Barcelona City Council has not been a promoter of live music and/or music in the streets. If anything, it's the opposite. Sometimes they'll support a big festival, because the media attention and the arrival of international stars raises the public profile of the city and attracts tourism, but most music fans who come into the city for these festivals have no idea of the repressive policies that strangle the live music scene in Barcelona. The government takes shortcuts that negatively affect the long-term possibilities for the musical culture of the city. There should be much more public funding for local jazz clubs, radio programmes, and street musicians.
Q: Do you think that the general populace in Barcelona has a great love of jazz today? Is there enough interest from the public to support a strong local circuit?
A: These days, it is really is difficult to be valued as professional musician in both Catalunya and Spain. It's not a problem with jazz, it's a problem with the public's perception of the value of live music in general. The upside is that we see more and more kids learning to play an instrument ,in schools or privately, and that's a great thing. Jazz is taken seriously as an academic discipline. What we need to overcome is the perception that studying music is all well and good, but making music once you’re out of school should be just "for fun”— it’s not taken seriously as a profession. I'm sure that we will find a way to educate the public in this respect, but it's slow going.