Interview: Alex Mercado


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Q: Did you receive any formal training as a pianist? Who taught you?

A: I began studying classical music at age 13 with Jose Luis Arcaraz, a classical piano teacher who took me under his wing after discovering I had a special talent and predisposition for music. Through him I got thoroughly introduced to piano technique, dynamics, and the expressive range of the instrument. My passion for music allowed me to make quick progress through long practice sessions, achieving positive results in a short amount of time, getting to play really difficult repertoire after a few years. I received formal training in jazz at Berklee College of Music studying with Ray Santisi, Laszlo Gardony, Bob Winter, and attending master classes with Kenny Werner, Danilo Perez, and Fred Hersch. I consider myself self-taught in the sense that I keep deepening my knowledge of music by studying, practicing, and listening constantly.

Q: Was jazz the first musical genre you gravitated to?

A: The first musical genre that I gravitated to was classical music, and in that sense I could say that it is the genre that has influenced my personal style the most, trying to incorporate the classical flair into my improvisation, defining my technical approach towards the instrument and trying to use classical and orchestral textures into my writing. Jazz came afterwards as a vehicle to express my own self through improvisation. Nevertheless, I consider myself as a jazz pianist with a classical influence.

Q: What artists had the greatest impact on you in terms of inspiring your craft?

A: I have been particularly fond of pianists who have a compositional approach while improvising. From that point of view, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Dave Brubeck, and Chick Corea have had the greatest impact in the way I conceive music. They taught me that jazz is all about content in a classical sense and that improvisation should try to depict and develop the work at hand instead of “navigating" through it. The composers and improvisers happen to be the artists with the most distinct voice because their music world entails both improvisation and composition.

Q: How long does it usually take you to compose a song? What is the process like?

A: My process of writing is very intuitive. I usually listen to an idea in my head and then I feel it could be developed into a larger form. I say feel because I try to write only the things I feel, not letting intellectual recipes to dictate the future of the song. As I let feeling and intuition take the lead, the creation of a whole song from beginning to end becomes really fast and natural. It almost feels like taking dictation from music itself. The way I train this ability to develop a song into something natural and complete is to absorb everything around me consciously, associating everything all the time.

Q: How would you feel your latest effort Symbiosis differs from your previous works?

A: Symbiosis is my second album as the leader of a jazz piano trio playing my original compositions exclusively. In terms of composition, it is more mature in terms of the homogeneity achieved among all the tunes. Featuring Antonio Sanchez and Scott Colley, two musicians with very strong personalities and outstanding maturity to interpret original music, Symbiosis is more representative of the democracy that should be present in a jazz piano trio.

Q: What kind of following do you have in your native Mexico?

A: My first album The Watcher was the one who consolidated my career, making my music well known among jazz followers, jazz media, and cultural environments in Mexico. As a sideman I have also been very active and that has helped immensely to get more attention to my work as a leader and as a composer.

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