Guitarist, composer and leader Homero Alvarez calls his ensemble “some of the best musicians in Stockholm playing new Latin jazz.”
This is no lie. His combo has just released its self-named EP where the musical intelligence is strong, the sound is imaginative and the vibe is spirited.
There are only three songs but they pack a punch (and more is promised this fall). “Blanca” is light and fizzy, inviting feet to dance without self-consciousness. It has a definitive Latin vibe while breaking ranks with a thick-and-kickin’ keyboard solo. Digging deeper, the assertive rhythm of “Life Hack” flirts with a minor mode, adds unexpected chord changes, and emerges into horn-driven brilliance, but deceptive cadences abound and more modulations bubble up; maybe the “hack” here is taking new routes. “Sӧdermalm” (an island in central Stockholm) is cohesive, bubbly and fun.
The group consists of:
Homero Alvarez on guitar; Karl Olandersson – trumpet; Karin Hammar – trombone; Arnold Rodriguez – piano; Juan Patricio Mendoza – bass; Ola Bothzén – drums and Andreas Ekstedt – percussion.
How does the Latin jazz vibe go so well in the Swedish market?
We are just about to see!
Latin jazz is more considered to be a mix of jazz and rhythms from Cuba or Puerto Rico. Our thing is more general – the whole continent. We’ve done a lot of Brazilian music thoughout the years, samba, Baião and mixes with rhythms from Colombia and Uruguay (Cumbia & Candombe), everything blended with our compositions and improvisations.. So how will it work in Sweden?
Sweden has an open heart to South America since the 70s, at least. Musically Sweden also has many famous artists like Cornelis Vreeswijk and Lill Lindfors who’ve had important collaborations with Latin American musicians in the 1960s. I believe I follow this tradition and will probably make some genuine stuff of it.
What’s the biggest challenge of running a jazz club?
Mornington LIVE is situated in the great Mornington Hotel. I handle the programming, choose the bands and keep it alive in every way. We’ve been presenting shows for six years now and I would easily say that it is the second biggest in Stockholm. The biggest challenge in the beginning was simply to get people there and I would say that we managed it all through social media and friends.
However, due to the pandemic, we shut down in the middle of March and plan to open again in September, which would be wonderful.
What’s the first song you wrote for the new EP? What emotions do you want to communicate?
I think “Blanca” was the first one. It’s my first daughter’s middle name. I wrote the song many years ago but did the arrangement for the septet just before entering the studio.
I wanted to create an up-tempo feeling for all three songs.
What was the production process like?
Not tough at all. The recordings went well. We recorded first as a quartet with guitar, keys, bass and drums. Then we added the horns and percussion. But they all played so well that it’s been more a pleasure than anything else.
Your favorite thing about being a composer, band leader and guitarist?
Being in strong contact with music is my ultimate top. It’s the best thing there is. And the combination of all these roles is the best.
I’m just miss playing live. That’s what we all are longing for. Our first planned gig will be at the Stockholm Jazz festival in October.
How did the musicians help you achieve the right sound?
I’ve worked for many years with a quartet called Latin the Mood that had a similar approach. There we had alto saxophone and we added trombone and trumpet to the combo.
It’s important to choose people you’ve worked with for many years.
We are struggling to reach out. As an independent label during this pandemic period it’s very much about the internet. We are just now recording four new songs which we plan to release in September or October.
My idea is one more digital release digital and after that a full length vinyl to offer the audiences when we go live.
For more information, visit www.homeroalvarez.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Homero Alvarez. Second photo (c) Nina Varumo.
© Debbie Burke 2020