“My idea has always been to do different things if I can” “The more you put in your locker, the more things you have to play with”
“When I think a project shines, I try to find continuity in it” “For this new record, I wanted to compose simple pieces”
“Playing with Sílvia [Pérez Cruz] made me see how deep a song can go” “You have to be clear about who you are and what role you play”
We have no choice but to keep creating; there is no stopping us,” says Marco Mezquida (Menorca, 1987) on the other side of the telephone. A musician who is always involved in multiple projects, Mezquida remains a close collaborator of Sílvia Pérez Cruz, with whom he continues to tour as a member of the Farsa Circus Band, and with whom he released a recording last year of their duet concert recorded in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the pianist and composer from Menorca was the main star on January 21 at the Sala Barts music hall in Barcelona, where he did a concert that had originally been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis and that was part of the Voll-Damm Jazz Festival. On that night he presented three of his new projects: his recently released album, Talismán (Discmedi), which sees him reunited with Aleix Tobias (percussion) and Martín Meléndez (cello), his collaboration with flamenco guitarist Chicuelo (who was the winner of last year’s Ciutat de Barcelona award), and his latest involvement with Beethoven College, and their very particular exploration of the great German composer’s work.
Let’s start with your album ‘Talismán’. What motivated your reunion with Meléndez and Tobias, three years after ‘Ravel’s dreams’ came out?
When I think a project shines, I try to find continuity in it. ’Ravel’s dreams’ was originally a commission, but it allowed me to create this trio, which was a bit atypical compared to those that normally come from the jazz tradition. As we played, we began to realise that we were making a different type of sound and that the musical spectrum was both rich and personal. And, of course, both Aleix and Martín are great companions to work with. For this new record, I wanted to compose simple pieces that enhance that whole sound.
How would you describe the sound of this atypical trio?
We didn’t want to do anything too convoluted or out there. It’s music that wants to be, above all, a song of life and joy.
Perfect for this moment right now.
Yes, of course. But it was a need we had, too. We had to look for other paths after the Ravel album. I know there are people who expected music much closer to that line, but my idea has always been to do different things if I can.
You are always involved in a great many projects and that means you end up working with a lot of different musicians. Can you define what makes it possible musically to understand someone else?
It’s like a conversation. Everyone has their own way of talking. There are people who you connect with straight away and it seems as if you could talk to them forever, but on the other hand there are other people with whom this doesn’t happen. And these connections, of course, have nothing to do with things like age or what you have studied and what you haven’t.
You presented three projects at the Barcelona Jazz Festival. Does spreading yourself make you a better musician?
No, not at all, but I’ve had this need ever since I was a child. I was forced to study Mozart, and when I did, I discovered Gal Costa and Brazilian music, for example. The years go by, and then you actually start wanting to study Mozart! In that sense, I’ve always been a little bit anarchic. And it all adds up, of course. The more things you can put in your locker, the more you have to play with. There’s one thing my music teacher told me when I was little that I have never forgotten: it doesn’t matter whether you play Ravel or pachanga, The Beatles or Santana; the important thing is to play with other people. Thanks to that, I think I now have a wide musical spectrum.And I also have a lot of respect for both the Casals Quartet, for example, and a party band that sounds like crap but is capable of playing a repertoire of 200 covers from memory. Not everyone has to do what I do, of course. But for me, getting to know Chicuelo pushed me to want to understand what was happening in the world of flamenco, about which I had no bloody idea. And playing with Sílvia [Pérez Cruz] made me see how deep you can go in each song.
How was that concert with Sílvia Pérez Cruz at the Blue Note in Tokyo that came out on record last summer?
It was in a small club, for 150 people. We didn’t have spotlights or the costumes that you only wear when you do concerts for 2,000 people. But everything was so intimate and sincere that it reflected the closeness I have with Sílvia.
How has accompanying her let you grow as a musician?
She’s one of the most prodigious musicians I know. We’ve become great friends and the music has flowed from the first moment. It’s been a great gift to be able to do all these concerts for two years and feel that level of connection with the music and songs. We may be happy or sad, but we both know that as soon as the concert arrives, we’re entering sacred ground. We’re both creatures of the stage. We look forward to that moment, to playing around, to taking risks, and pouring out all our love on stage. Playing with Sílvia is a really deep experience.
Do you ever see yourself singing?
I’ve never really done it, except in private, usually with plenty of alcohol [he laughs]. I love those musicians who know how to sing along with the instrument and who get excited about resorting to words: Bill Evans, Lee Konitz, Keith Jarrett…
One day you’re the leader; the next day you’re accompaniment, and the next day you’re just another member of the group. How do you handle these changes of mentality?
You have to be clear about who you are and what role you play, and also how to manage your ego. But that doesn’t only happen in the world of music, I guess, but also in any form of teamwork.