“Simpler Times” CD, by Chester Thompson Trio

Today I felt this urge to let all of you know about this record because I absolutely loved it from A to Z. So, here I am. Hopefully you’ll follow my advice, purchase the CD, and tell me whether you agree with me or not. I wholeheartedly promise you will thank me!


“Love is the only force capable of transforming enemy into friend”, says a graffiti on the wall next to the musicians in one of the CD pictures (see below). While listening to this piece of art, the feeling one gets imbued with is clearly love, universal love. This is probably the utmost contribution a group of musicians can make to humanity.



This wonderful record has a wonderful-feeling name: “Simpler Times”. How does that feel to you? Yeah, I thought so.

The first two songs were written by pianist Joe Davidian. When playing first track “Elation”, one would easily think the trio is Brazilian. Learning Chester Thompson’s favorite rhythm is samba came as a big surprise to me. Well, this track sounds so Brazilian that it amazes to know musicians are from the U.S.! This song makes life seem easy, simpler than it really is, probably happier too. From this very first moment, something that called my attention was how the three members of the trio, being of different ages, can blend so masterfully. In fact, I think Thompson plays as if he were twenty years younger and the pianist and bass player sound much more mature musicians than their age would suggest. The three of them are virtuosos but their mastery of music and instruments are undoubtedly put at the service of music in this record. If you have read the interview I published some months ago, you’ll probably have the same perception I had: that the three of them are really, really listening as if they were in the audience. There is no hint of ego anywhere and the general feeling is of collective joy and collective creation. I guess that’s the reason why when I listen to this record I feel universal love emerging in me.

The co-creation among the three musicians in track number two, “You Are Sid” is so, so great! You have to listen to it! There is no way you miss having this experience if you are a music lover. This song is mostly jazzy, but it also has some hints of Brazilian feeling in it, probably given by the place where stress of phrases is. Its rhythm is jazz, though, and at this point one feels grateful for the trio formation. All notes are clearly heard and one can actually enjoy the three so distinct and so complementary sounds. How they co-create what happens here is out of this world, really.

“Joy Waltz” is a jubilant song by bass player Michael Rinne. Again, the three musicians make a wonderful piece together. There are great solos of the piano and the bass which are really enjoyable. I was elated by the choices of Chester Thompson when accompanying both the bass and the piano solos and by the magic he does with his cymbals. He plays them extremely lovingly, softly, yet so well defined. At times he chose to repeat what the bass was saying, sometimes he is highlighting one only note, creating a very distinct feeling, sometimes he fully underlines what is being said by the other two, but everything is done with such respect for music as a whole that the final result is remarkable. The bass sounds much more mature than it is logical to expect, with a superb feeling and sound, and the notes in the piano have a very crystalline quality, super well defined and beautiful.

Track 4 is beloved song “Naima” (by Coltrane). Kirk Whalum’s participation is most important in this track, which takes you to simpler times very easily. While listening to it, images of calm moments of my life kept coming. For example, one special afternoon that I spent reading a book about Kind of Blue at some wonderful flat facing the river. That afternoon I felt so much like time travelling to 1959. Well, this version of Naima took me in that same direction. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Again, his cymbals!!! Thompson transmits something very, very special through cymbals. There is something very lively with his hi-hat, and something really, really sweet in his playing of the other cymbals. His grooving is magical and the last sustained note by the bass and the sax is definitely a brilliant ending for this masterpiece.

Well, then comes “Desafinado”. How on Earth did they get the idea of changing its metric? That was such fantastic creative choice. Arrangement of this track is credited to Michael Rinne, so I take my hat off to his choices. This version sounds much more alive, much more interesting than the many versions I’ve heard of this song before. In my opinion, this trio really nailed it with this version. Again, Thompson’s co-creation of the bass solo is amazing, with so much gentleness and so lively, so musical… I fell in love with this version of this song. And the piano sounds so Tom Jobim here! This is a really great version.

“A Remark You Made” (by Zawinul) is a song that makes me so nostalgic of the early times when I first listened to Weather Report. It’s one of those songs that I’ve made mine, somehow. The piano in it is an absolute delight. The hi-hat in this song is a thrill. Due to my love for drums, I often linger my ear in the percussion section of tracks. By doing so in this one, I got a blissful sense of freedom when focusing on the hi-hat sounds. Another marvel is the double bass sound when played with the arch. And the bass keeps surprising me with its experienced sound and feeling.

“Better Get it in Your Soul”‘s version is so enjoyable. In Charles Mingus’ original version, to my taste, notes are a little too dense… like bumping into each other, or accumulated in a somehow disorderly way. However, in this Chester Thompson Trio’s version everything is clearly heard and savoring it is easy, wonderful. This is such an uplifting track! The double bass contribution is really fantastic here and the joy in the drumming is heart-warming. The piano in this track called my attention for its double quality of rhythm and melody so well unified, at the time that it creates a different, new atmosphere that feels so, so good. This is a track which had everything to become aggressive, yet it is sweet and happy.

“Serenity”, by Joe Davidian, drives us again to Brazil. I don’t know what relationship Davidian and Rinne may have with Brazil, but they seem to have listened to a lot of Brazilian music and they certainly took lots of it in with mastery. Although it is a calmer track, it is still joyful and uplifting. Those two are probably the better defining adjectives for this record. The ending notes are again a delight!

“Simpler Times”, by Rinne, should be the trio’s hit. Groovy, lively, an invitation to dance. If I loved the hi-hat in other tracks, the snare and toms fully hooked me in this one, and the whole co-creation among the three musicians. This is a song that is found live in Youtube. Go for it but there is no possible comparison of sounds with the CD. This CD is a treat worth having on our shelves.

The version of Cole Porter’s “So in Love” surprised me in the same way as Desafinado did. It’s super good. I loved the bass attitude and attack in this song. It’s as if the bass became especially lively in this song. Music becomes a perfect mix of jazz and Brazilian music, which ends up being a real delight. In this track I felt the need to bow at Chester Thompson’s amazing drumming experience, which transpires in this kind of musical gem.

“New Life”‘s calmer quality is greatly received after the increase in excitement of the previous tracks. This is a track where kindness and sweetness emerge in a very special way. It feels soothing and warm. I welcome it with much gratefulness. I ended up dancing with it. I think that’s the best thing a song can cause: the will to move, to dance, to accompany it somehow.

“Single Source” is the last track and one of the most uplifting ones from this beautiful record. When it finishes, you want to play the CD again!! This song in particular sounds amazingly young and mature at the same time. I think the mixture of ages and experiences shows here in a very special way. Sounds from this track reach several different memories and mechanisms inside… as if several worlds would suddenly become together. I cannot explain it better than that, but it’s a weird and very nice feeling.

What a wonderful CD “Simpler Times” is. I’m so very grateful to have become curious enough to really listen to it. I encourage you to do the same. Let me help you with the links where you can find it either for purchasing its digital version or its physical one:

CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chesterthompsontrio2

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Simpler-Times-Chester-Thompson-Trio/dp/B0176Q47SQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477273227&sr=8-1&keywords=simpler+times+chester+thompson+trio

A final note: Joe Davidian grew up in Vermont. He started studying classical music, then was introduced into jazz by his father. He’s been a teacher since he was very young and he is a professor at Belmont University, in Nashville, TN. Michael Rinne was born in Arkansas, but currently lives in Nashville, too. Both Davidian and Rinne have recorded with several well-known artists and toured nationally and internationally. Chester Thompson’s impressive music career includes his collaboration with Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Phil Collins and a very long list of other musicians he has played and recorded with (I was really surprised when I learned–from Hugo Fattoruso–he had even recorded with Hermeto Pascoal). He currently teaches drums at Belmont University. He is widely known by his versatility to play all styles of music. I would like to add that his creativity, independence and how he surprises us with his choices when playing is something really amazing.

PS: Spanish version of this review will be coming as soon as possible. This one naturally came up in English first.

Viaje intergaláctico con Alphonso Johnson Quartet en el Teatro Solís

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Foto: Ricardo Gómez

Mientras la voz sensual del Teatro Solís nos invitaba a apagar los teléfonos celulares, a mi lado mi amigo Julio decía: “Bueno, se empieza a escribir la historia. Ommm”. Y todo el teatro aplaudió la entrada de los genios al escenario.

Como si quisieran alargar ese Ommm de mi amigo, el Alphonso Johnson Quartet inició su toque con una combinación mística de sonidos, creando un clima de expectativa, que sería venerablemente honrado durante todo el toque. Esa introducción precedió a una fantástica versión del tema “Resolution” de John Coltrane.

La emoción con la que escuché ese primer tema fue tal que tuve que hacer algunas respiraciones profundas y decirme que me convenía calmarme. Pero mi emoción tenía grandes razones para existir y ser muy grande esa noche. Entre otras cosas, en el año 1988 la vida hizo que yo descubriese la música de Weather Report, de la mano de un gran profesor que me prestaba cada clase cassettes grabados con la música de estos genios y yo los devoraba, y por supuesto copiaba. Ni por un instante imaginé en ese tiempo, cuando me admiraba sobremanera cómo podían tocar esas maravillas y cuando daba mis primeros pasos en poder identificar el sonido del bajo (ja) entre todos los sonidos del jazz, que casi 30 años después podría ver a un cuarteto formado por dos de esos músicos en el Solís, tocando en directo algunos de esos mismos temas. Espero que me disculpen este momento nostálgico pero este trasfondo personal influyó en que este concierto del Alphonso Johnson Quartet fuera para mí muy, muy especial.

El cuarteto ya sonó a pleno en ese primer tema. Federico Ramos en la guitarra y Gary Fukushima en teclados transmitían una seguridad inmensa con las melodías. Alphonso Johnson y Chester Thompson bien podrían ser una sola persona, y una persona muy firmemente plantada en la vida: fue impactante escucharlos y verlos… es una dupla genial.

Siguió la versión de Equinox con más swing que se haya oído hasta ahora. Todos contribuyeron desde su instrumento y su presencia con esa belleza, de una forma muy espectacular. Federico con su guitarra nos instaló en el corazón una combinación muy mágica de belleza y nostalgia en iguales medidas. El yin y el yang podrían representar gráficamente lo que sentí yo con esos sonidos de Federico. Gary a su vez eligió unos sonidos (durante toda la noche, ¿eh?) que fueron bien originales y que te trasladaban a un sitio nuevo. Chester y Alphonso demostraron toda la noche lo que habían explicado en una clínica en conjunto el día anterior: todos los instrumentos tocan melodía, todos los instrumentos son responsables de mantener el ritmo y el trabajo principal de todos los músicos es escuchar el todo. ¡Pero cómo tocan, por favor!

Alphonso es el swing personificado. Equinox en particular le pide que toque muchas veces la misma combinación de notas. Es admirable cómo las toca cada vez con exactamente la misma intención y la misma energía gozada. ¡Y ese swing! No, no, no… ¡increíble!

Siempre me nace agradecerles a los músicos que dejan las notas sonando un instante más, porque me dan la oportunidad de disfrutarlas un poquitito más. Con los bajistas esto es variable pero Alphonso les permite siempre a las notas esa duración máxima que tanto agradezco. ¡Qué lindo! Permanecen flotando y hay una unidad muy especial de las notas entre sí.

El tema siguiente fue ese tema tan divino, compuesto por Alphonso Johnson, que se llama “Bahama Mama”, en el que Alphonso se mandó uno de los muchos solos hermosos de la noche. Tremenda emoción. Fue a partir de este tema que yo hubiera dado la vida por poder bailar durante todo el resto del concierto. La alegría y el swing tan brutal que generaron esta noche iba literalmente aumentando las vibraciones de las células del cuerpo de los que estábamos escuchando y era muy difícil quedarse quietos en las butacas. La melodía tocada en el bajo es algo de locos. Es indescriptible con palabras la emoción, pero vayan a Youtube y busquen el tema. ¡No lo posterguen ni un segundo más! Denme el gusto de ponerlo de banda de sonido al leer el resto de esta reseña. El bajo aquí es pura melodía hermosa y súper rítmica. Y verlo a él tocar es un goce adicional. Todo su cuerpo resuena con lo que está tocando. De a ratos sutilmente y de a ratos bastante más evidente, cada célula suya baila lo que toca. Es bellísimo de presenciar y nutre lo mejor de todos nosotros. Contagia vitalidad.

Además, él es la simpatía personificada. Por ejemplo, un gesto bonito fue que cuando nos habló, trató de mechar las palabras que sabía en español. Además, presentó a sus músicos con enorme respeto y cariño y con una actitud humilde, calma, bella.

En el tema siguiente Gary Fukushima nos regaló un solo divino, con esos sonidos extraterrestres suyos, que me encantaron. Él y Alphonso en un momento de este tema entretejieron sus sonidos de tal manera que daba la impresión de que hacía años que tocaban juntos, y todos sabíamos que no, que este grupo se formó muy recientemente. Me dejó asombradísima eso. Después se agregó Freddy, con su guitarra, y me sorprendió lo mismo: ¿cómo puede ser que suenen así haciendo tan poco tiempo que tocan juntos?  Supongo que la respuesta es que son músicos profesionales y el lenguaje de la música no tiene mayores misterios para ellos.

Mientras sonaba la introducción del bajo del tema siguiente yo le agradecía a la vida por la oportunidad mágica de estar recibiendo en el cuerpo las vibraciones de esas notas directamente, sin ningún aparato mediador. Son notas que sanan el espíritu. ¡Gracias!

La versión del tema Giant Steps fue algo de locos, demoledor. Parecía que nos habían transportado a otro plano, al plano ese donde se cumplen los sueños más preciados. Gary la descosió de nuevo con su teclado mágico. El bajo de Alphonso seguía esculpiendo sonidos que generaban una alegría mayúscula de estar vivos (tocó un solo muy bonito, pero durante toda la canción tocó sonidos increíblemente hermosos). La guitarra le dio un toque maravilloso al final de esta canción, con una presencia y una decisión que pah, impactaba y me dejó completamente admirada y con ganas de buscar más música de Freddy.

Cuando iban hora y media de concierto, anunciaron el tema Naima, y acá es donde pongo el freno general y no tengo más remedio que mencionar muy especialmente a Chester.  Esto que voy a decir lo hizo durante todo el toque pero en este tema en particular fue algo increíble. Haciendo una simplificación bastante brutal de mi parte, los bateristas hacen principalmente dos cosas: una, llevan el tiempo con lo que se puede llamar “el groove”, y dos, apoyan determinados momentos del fluir musical. Como cada uno de los otros instrumentos tiene a su vez su dinámica individual, por lo general el baterista apoya momentos de “la voz cantante”, la que “resalta más”, ya sea esa una voz humana o una melodía tocada en cualquiera de los instrumentos. Bueno, lo que me admiró por completo durante todo el toque, y muy especialmente en este tema, fue la maestría de Chester Thompson para ir apoyando a todos y cada uno de los instrumentos en ese entretejido mágico de melodías que se daba, manteniendo todo el tiempo el groove ese que le da cohesión a la canción. Él dijo que el secreto está en escuchar como si se estuviera sentado en el lugar de la audiencia. Desde mi butaca en la novena fila mi cuerpo no podía creer cómo él era capaz de anticiparse al protagonismo momentáneo de cada sonido proveniente de cada uno de los otros tres instrumentos y apoyarlos a todos en el momento exacto como para que la totalidad de la creación tuviera una presencia impactante, con la mayor musicalidad del planeta, manteniendo el groove base, de cohesión, y con un gusto musical absolutamente exquisito. Ah, y todo fluyendo con una naturalidad que parecía que estaba tarareando una tonada bajo la ducha. No sé si en algún momento caeremos en la cuenta de lo que presenciamos ese día. A mí la ficha todavía no terminada de caerme, la verdad. En uno de los momentos en que sentí que la excitación era demasiado desbordante llevé los ojos al cielo, buscando a alguien para agradecer, y me encontré con que en la esquina frontal derecha del techo del teatro un foco estaba haciendo algo muy hermoso: se proyectaba uno de los parches de la batería de Chester… ¡se lo veía vibrar en el techo! y la sombra de su mano izquierda. Como si el teatro estuviera buscando maneras de quedarse con ese recuerdo incrustado. No lo culpo. Yo también estoy haciendo lo posible por mantener este recuerdo para siempre.

Poder escuchar y ver a Chester Thompson en acción fue uno de los mejores regalos que he recibido en mi vida. Me atrapó el sonido de sus platos, cuán sueltos usa los platos del HH y cómo esa comodidad hace que esos platos fluyan con la música con maestría. Su independencia es algo absolutamente increíble de presenciar y cómo ella le permite que verdaderamente pueda estar adentro de la música por completo y pueda tocar con libertad lo que sea que sienta que precisa ser tocado. Me llamó la atención cómo puede tocar con tanta decisión y a la vez con tanta calidez en los sonidos que produce. Esto es un poco loco, lo sé, pero pienso que su música proyecta la presencia que tiene su persona. Escuchar las notas que surgían de la batería fue transformador, así como observar la manera en que su escucha especial sucedía. No sé cuántos músicos se habrán llevado esta bendición consigo. Espero que hayan sido varios.

Lo que sucedió después fue un viaje intergaláctico. El techo del que hablaba recién se abrió como una compuerta y el escenario y todas las butacas levantamos vuelo. El destino era: visitar galaxias lejanas. Déjenme respirar hondo antes de decirlo, porque me tiembla el pulso: tocaron BLACK MARKET. ¡Black Market tocado por este cuarteto increíble! ¡Black Market tocado por dos de los músicos de Weather Report! ¡Black Market tocado a pasitos nuestros, dirigido a nosotros! ¡Black Market vibrando en nuestras células y nuestra alma! No quiero invocar a deidades para no ofender a nadie pero ahhh, eso no fue solo obra de humanos. Quienes estuvieron podrán decir si estoy exagerando o no. Yo sigo en éxtasis hasta el día de hoy. ¡Y fantástico cómo Gary y Freddy se amalgamaron con Alphonso y Chester de esa manera! Esos dos monstruos han tocado juntos desde el año 1969 y son una aplanadora impresionante en el escenario, pero Gary y Freddy se unieron a esa aplanadora de la mejor manera, brillaron increíble los dos durante todo el toque, se mandaron unos solos increíbles y entre los cuatro generaron un concierto que no nos vamos a olvidar nunca más.

Quiero cerrar esta nota con un gracias gigante a todas las personas que tuvieron que ver con que esta noche existiera en el Teatro Solís. Cada una sabe quién es y cada una sabe qué parte le agradezco. Desde la generosidad de mi profe en el año 1988 hasta todos los que hicieron posible que el 28 de julio de 2016 viviéramos semejante experiencia. Y por supuesto a los músicos, esos seres de luz que hacen que nuestra vida sea tanto más disfrutable.

Feliz a más no poder

Feliz a más no poder


Fascinación post concierto

Fascinación post concierto


Con la artesana de toda esta magia

Con la artesana de toda esta magia

Foto de portada: Ricardo Gómez

Posdata: Aquí se puede leer la entrevista a Chester Thompson, realizada pocos días antes del concierto.

Intergalactic Trip with Alphonso Johnson Quartet

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Picture: Ricardo Gómez

While the sensual voice of Solís Theater invited us to switch off our mobile phones, my friend Julio said at my side: “Well, the story begins to get written. Ommm”, And the whole theater clapped at the entrance of those geniuses to the stage.

As if they wanted to extend that Ommm by my friend, the Alphonso Johnson Quartet began their concert with a mystic combination of sounds, creating an atmosphere full of expectation, which would be venerably honored during all night. That intro preceded a fantastic version of “Resolution”, by John Coltrane.

The emotion with which I listened to that first theme was such that I had to take some deep breaths and tell me that I’d better calm down. But my emotion had great reasons to exist and be huge that night. Among other things, in year 1988 life made me discover Weather Report’s music, by the hand of a great teacher, who in each lesson lent me recorded cassettes with music played by these geniuses. I devoured them and, of course, copied them. Not for an instant at that time did I imagine, when I was so impressed by how they could play those wonders, and when I was taking my first tiny steps in being able to identify the sound of the bass (ha!) among those jazz sounds, that almost thirty years later I would be able to see a quartet formed by two of those musicians in the Solís Theater, playing live some of those same themes. I hope you will forgive my nostalgic moment, but this personal background had an influence in the fact that this concert of Alphonso Johnson Quartet was very, very special to me.

The Quartet had its full sound at that first theme, already. Federico Ramos in the guitar and Gary Fukushima in keyboards exuded an immense confidence with melodies. Alphonso Johnson and Chester Thompson could well have been one only person, and one that is very firmly rooted in life: listening and watching them was stunning. It is a brilliant duo.

The most swing-filled version of Equinox I have so far heard followed. All musicians contributed from their instruments and with their presence with that beauty, in a spectacular way. Federico with his guitar installed in our hearts a very magical combination of 50% beauty and 50% nostalgia. The yin yang could graphically represent what I felt with those sounds emerging from Federico. Gary, in turn, chose some sounds (all night long, in fact) which were super original and which transported us to a new, unknown place. Chester and Alphonso demonstrated all the time what they had explained in a joint clinic the previous day: all instruments play melody, all instruments are responsible for keeping time, and the main job of all musicians is to listen to the whole musical result. But they play so great!

Alphonso is swing personified. Equinox, in particular, asks him to play several times the same combination of notes. It is remarkable how he plays them each time with exactly the same intention and the same enjoyable energy. And that swing! No, no, no… it’s incredible!

I always feel the urge to thank musicians who leave notes sounding for one more instant, because they give me the opportunity to enjoy them a little longer. With bass players this is variable, but Alphonso always enables them to last their maximum, which I thank so much. So beautiful! They linger in the air and there is a very special unity among his notes.

The following song was that superb one, composed by Alphonso Johnson, called “Bahama Mama”, in which Alphonso offered us one of the several wonderful solos of the night. Such an emotion! From this theme on, I would have given my life to be able to dance during the rest of the concert. Both joy and swing generated by them were so terrific that the cells of the body were literally increasing their vibrations in those of us who were listening and it was very hard to stay still in our seats. The melody played in the bass is something crazy. The emotion is indescribable with words, but do go to Youtube and search for the song. Do not postpone it for a second! Do me the favor of playing it as the soundtrack to the rest of this narration. The bass here is pure beautiful and super rhythmic melody. And watching him play is an additional joy. All his body resonates with what he plays. Subtly at times, and quite more evident at others, each cell of his dances with what he plays. It is super beautiful to witness this and it nourishes the best of all of us. He transmits vitality.

Besides, his friendly nature is evident. For example, a kind gesture of his was to talk some words he knew in Spanish. And he introduced his musicians with huge respect and warmth, and with a humble, calm and beautiful attitude.

At the following song Gary Fukushima gave us a wonderful solo as a present, with those extraterrestrial sounds of his, which I loved. At some point at this song, he and Alphonso intertwined their sounds in such a way that we got the impression of their being playing together for several years, when in fact we all know it was not so, as this band joined very recently.  That amazed me. Later Freddy added himself with his guitar and the same called my attention. How is it possible that they sound in that way, having played for such a short while together? I guess the answer is that they are professional musicians and music language is no bit mystery to them.

While the bass introduction of the next song was in the air, I thanked life for the magical opportunity of directly receiving on my body the vibrations of those notes, without any mediating appliance. These notes heal our spirit. Thank you!

Giant Steps’ version was something out of this world. As if they had taken us to another dimension, to the one where all precious dreams come true. Gary again did magic with his keyboards. Alphonso’s bass kept sculpting sounds, which generated a huge joy for being alive (he played a very beautiful solo, but let me stress that all along he played amazingly beautiful sounds). The guitar gave a marvelous touch to the end of this song, with a presence and a decision that wow, it caused a big impression on me and triggered my curiosity for more music by Freddy.

When one hour and a half of concert had gone by, they announced Naima, and here is where I press the break and I can’t help making a very special mention to Chester. What I’m about to say is something he did for the whole concert, but especially in this song it was something amazing. Doing a quite brutal simplification, I will state that drummers do mainly two things: one, they keep time with what can be called “the groove”, and two, they stress or support certain moments of the musical flow. As each one of the other instruments have, at their turn, their own individual dynamics, generally the drummer stresses moments of the “singing voice”, the one that is “more evident”. This may be a human voice or the melody played by any of the instruments. Well, what generated my full admiration during the whole concert, and especially in this song, was Chester Thompson’s mastery to gradually accent all and each one of the instruments in this magical texture of melodies that took place, permanently keeping the groove that gave cohesion to the song. He said: “the secret is in listening as if you were sitting in the audience”. From my seat in the ninth row, my body could not believe how he was capable of anticipating the momentary prominence of each sound coming from each one of the other three instruments and accent them all in the exact moment in such a way that the whole creation got a striking presence, with the planet’s greatest musicality, keeping the groove, the cohesion, and with an absolutely delicious musical taste. Oh, and everything flowing with such spontaneity that he seemed to be humming in the shower. I ignore whether we will at some point actually realize what we witnessed that day. I think I’ve not really, yet. At one of the moments when I felt my excitement was too overwhelming, I took my eyes to the sky, seeking someone to thank, and I found that at the front right corner of the theater’s roof a spotlight was doing something very beautiful: it was projecting one of the drumheads of Chester’s drumset… ¡one could see it vibrating at the roof! And the shadow of his left hand too. As if the theater would be looking for ways to embed that memory. I don’t blame it. I am also doing my best to keep this memory forever.

Being able to listen to and watch Chester Thompson in action was one of the best gifts I’ve received in my life. I was hooked by the sound of his cymbals, by how loose his HH cymbals are and how by being so comfortable, those cymbals flow with the music masterfully. His independence is something absolutely awesome to witness and how it enables him to actually be in the music completely and freely play whatever he feels should be played. It called my attention how he can play with such decision and at the same time with such warmth in the sounds he produces. This is a little crazy, and I know it, but I think his drumming projects the presence his person holds. Listening to the notes coming from the drumset was transforming and so was witnessing how his special listening took place. I don’t know how many musicians took this particular blessing home. I hope several did.

What happened later was an intergalactic trip. The roof I mentioned earlier opened as a gate and the stage and all the seats took off. Destination was: distant galaxies. Please allow me to take a deep breath before saying it, because my hands tremble: they played BLACK MARKET. Black Market played by that amazing quartet! Black Market played by two of Weather Report’s musicians! Black Market played some footsteps from us, directed to us! Black Market vibrating in our cells and in our soul! I don’t want to invoke any deities, so as to avoid offending anyone, but ohhh, that was not something human only.  Those who were there will be able to say whether I’m exaggerating or not. I am still in ecstasy today. And it was fantastic how Gary and Freddy amalgamated with Alphonso and Chester in such a way! These two giants have played together since 1969 and they are an amazing force on stage, but Gary and Freddy united to that force in the best way, they shone during the whole night, they played amazing solos and the four of them generated a concert that we will never, never forget.

I want to close this note with a huge thank you to all the persons who had something to do with this night taking place at the Solís Theater. Each one knows their role and they know what part I thank them for. From my teacher’s generosity in 1988 up to all those who made possible that on July 28th, 2016 we lived such an experience. And, of course, to the musicians, those light beings who make our life more enjoyable.

The original Spanish version of this note was published in COOLTIVARTE

At the original entry you can see several other pictures taken by great photographer Ricardo Gómez.


Visita de Chester Thompson a Uruguay

Quienes leen Atresillado saben que normalmente escribo sobre los toques musicales el mismo día, porque este hábito, en verdad, es catártico. Ahora ya pasaron tres días desde que sucedieron algunos hechos maravillosos y sus efectos me dieron tal sacudón que me está siendo difícil desplazarme del área del corazón a la del cerebro y traducir parte de todo eso en palabras. Pero aquí estoy y prometo que haré todo lo que pueda.

Como habrán leído hace algunos días, tuve la oportunidad fantástica de entrevistar al baterista Chester Thompson por Skype, antes de su llegada a Uruguay (y la publiqué por acá). En ese momento me sorprendió mucho encontrarme con un caballero súper amable. Hablaba con calma, realmente escuchaba, y demostró paciencia y buenos modales cuando nos enfrentamos a algunos problemas técnicos para comunicarnos. Fue un verdadero placer tener esa conversación tan humana y enriquecedora.

Llegó el día en que los músicos del Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet llegaron a este rincón del mundo. Sus planes incluían una clínica por el cuarteto, una clase magistral por Chester Thompson y el concierto en el Teatro Solís.

Para mi sorpresa y pánico la productora me pidió que interpretase la clínica de Chester Thompson. A pesar de que estoy traduciendo todo el tiempo nunca trabajo como intérprete porque estoy convencida de que mi memoria es demasiado reducida como para recordar oraciones largas. Sin embargo, superé el pánico y acepté, teniendo en cuenta que pondría todo de mí para que los bateristas entendieran todo lo que él dijera.

También para mi sorpresa y pánico, Chester Thompson me pidió que le mostrara cómo tocar algo de candombe. Imagínense la escena: Alphonso Johnson, Federico Ramos, Gary Fukushima y Chester Thompson más varios bateristas uruguayos ahí… y yo intentando tocar un patrón de candombe. Era una misión imposible. Lo que toqué fue algo diferente; creo que inventé un ritmo nuevo. Entonces, le ofrecí a Chester Thompson que tomara una clase con un baterista que seguramente lo podría ayudar a llevarse una idea de nuestro ritmo: el inigualable Martín Ibarburu, por supuesto. [Esto puede ser injusto con varios otros bateristas uruguayos que también tocan candombe muy bien, pero la mayoría de ustedes ya sabe cuánto me gusta la música de Martín]. Chester Thompson tuvo la buena idea de aceptar y yo tuve la tarea fantástica de llevarlo a la casa de Martín y presentarlos.

Martín siempre me sorprende por su humildad, generosidad y amabilidad con todos. Fue emocionante descubrir que Chester estaba cortado por la misma tijera. Ahora los invito a que se imaginen a Martín diciéndole a Chester que era un honor tenerlo en su casa y a Chester diciéndole a Martín que el honor era suyo. Presenciar ese encuentro fue algo absolutamente impresionante. Por suerte me invitaron a quedarme y es así que puedo contarles que estos dos son algo de otro mundo, y no solo como bateristas.

Luego de explicarle un poco acerca del ritmo, Martín se lo mostró en la batería. Fue un deleite oírlos hablar sobre la estructura del ritmo y cómo Chester asociaba con varios otros ritmos latinos que ya ha tocado. Sin exagerar, ¡cinco minutos después Chester estaba tocando su primer candombe y sonando casi uruguayo! La sonrisa de Martín no podía ser más grande y yo me sentí tremendamente afortunada de poder presenciar todo esto.


Photo: Patricia

Chester terminó mostrándole a Martín un par de cosas también, por supuesto, y me pareció que por una hora el planeta entero estaba viviendo una transformación positiva.

Solo esta experiencia habría sido suficiente para sentir felicidad en mi alma por un año. Pero esto era únicamente el comienzo.

Ese mismo día, a las 6:00 pm, Chester Thompson estaría ofreciendo su clase magistral en el Teatro Solís. Así que yo, a las 5:30 pm, entraba por primera vez en mi vida por la puerta trasera del teatro. No podía creer lo grande y alta que es la parte de atrás del escenario y lo hermoso que se ve nuestro teatro adorado desde el escenario. Es una delicia.

Llegó Chester y repasamos un poco los conceptos que iba a presentar. También me mostró con un pad suyo cómo no perder contacto con los palos y cómo usar los dedos para tener un mejor control sobre ellos. Y ahí salimos, al escenario. Increíble: Chester y yo. ¿Loco, eh? Sí, estoy de acuerdo. Súper loco y fascinante. Sin embargo, debo admitir algo. Ya no estaba nerviosa y no sentía que estaba con una leyenda, con uno de los mejores bateristas del mundo. Estaba en calma y disfrutando ese momento a pleno, porque él facilitaba todo con su presencia y amabilidad.


Foto: Pablo Avellino


Foto: Germán Suárez

(Gracias a Pablo Avellino y a Germán Suárez por las fotos).


Estuvo una hora compartiendo generosamente su experiencia, sus conocimientos y su sabiduría.

Insistió en que ha sido muy afortunado en su vida por haber tenido la oportunidad de hacer música con los músicos que ha tocado (Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Phil Collins y muchísimos otros).

Entre los conceptos que compartió, sugirió que practicáramos todo comenzando con la mano derecha y luego comenzando con la mano izquierda. Todo. Mostró un ejercicio de calentamiento en el que tocó unas pocas notas en el bombo y sobre ellas tocó con las manos en el tambor rulo simple, rulo doble y paradiddles (empezando con la derecha y luego con la izquierda). “Y si resulta demasiado fácil, tóquenlo más rápido”, dijo, y lo mostró. Fue divertido cuando dijo que su mano derecha era funky y su mano izquierda era “straight”, así que obtenía un “feeling” diferente si tocaba con una o con la otra.

Habló de usar la muñeca solo para el primer golpe y usar los dedos para todos los demás, con los codos no separados del cuerpo sino relajados, colgando a los lados de este.

Puso énfasis en la importancia de escuchar a toda la banda como si estuviésemos sentados en la audiencia. Que no escucháramos a la batería; que escucháramos a la banda. Dijo que siempre que uno escucha una banda desde la audiencia y algo suena mal es porque alguno de los músicos no está escuchando a la banda sino que está escuchándose a sí mismo. Debo decir que estuve practicando esta manera nueva de escuchar y hace una verdadera diferencia en el resultado. Y no solo en la batería sino también en la vida.

El público le preguntó cómo había sido la experiencia de tocar con dos baterías. Él respondió que era mucho más difícil de lo que la gente normalmente suponía. Dijo que era muy importante tener contacto visual con el otro baterista, prestar mucha atención y escuchar de verdad. Explicó cómo Ralph Humphrey y él sentían la música un poco diferente y cómo tuvieron que ensayar mucho para lograr tocar bien juntos. También dijo que con Phil Collins fue distinto porque ambos sentían la música de forma muy similar y desde el primer día tocaron como si fueran una sola persona.

Otra pregunta fue sobre la posición de sus pies. Dijo que se había dado cuenta de que la gravedad era su amiga y la usaba a su favor. Pone el talón ni muy alto ni abajo, en una posición media.

Lamento que cometí un grave error: me olvidé de grabar la clínica. Estando en el escenario, concentrada en traducir, sé que estoy olvidándome de mucha información aquí, pero si llego a recordarla, corregiré la entrada.

Después de que terminó la clínica, la magia continuó por largo rato: El Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet tocó su concierto en el Teatro Solís. Es probable que lean acerca de eso en una nueva entrada.

Pienso que no es por casualidad que su música es tan espectacular. Estoy convencida de que en los casos de músicos magníficos como él, lo que escuchamos expresándose es su alma. Se puede ser un músico razonablemente bueno y no transmitir mucho. Si se transmite tanto como en este caso, se ha aprendido a mostrarle el alma al mundo.

Agradezco a Jazz Tour y a Cecilia Martínez-Gil por haber traído a Chester Thompson con Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet, por hacer posible una clínica de batería gratis, y por haberme elegido como lazo entre este batero fantástico y los maravillosos bateristas de Montevideo, quienes quedaron fascinados de tener esta oportunidad y han expresado de muchas maneras lo buena que estuvo la clínica.

Chester Thompson siempre será bienvenido por acá. Esperemos que vuelva pronto.

Chester Thompson’s visit to Uruguay

Those who read Atresillado know I usually write about music shows on the same day because this habit is actually cathartic to me. Now it’s been three days since wonderful events took place and their effects shook me so much that I’m finding it hard to move from the heart area into the brain, and translate part of that into words. But here I am and I promise I’ll do my best.

As you read some days ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview drummer Chester Thompson through Skype, before he came to Uruguay (and I published it here). I was astonished to meet a super kind gentleman. He talked calmly, he actually listened, and he showed patience and good manners when we faced some initial technical problems to communicate. It was a real pleasure having that human and enriching conversation.

The day came when the musicians of Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet arrived in this end of the world. Their plans included a clinic by the quartet, a master class by Chester Thompson, and the concert at the Teatro Solís.

To my surprise and to my panic, I was asked by their producer to be the interpreter of Chester Thompson’s master class. Even though I translate all the time, I never work as an interpreter, because I am convinced that my memory is too “short-termed” to remember long sentences. However, I overcame the panic and accepted, considering that I would really do my best for drummers to grasp everything he said.

Also to my surprise and to my panic, I was asked by Chester Thompson to show him how to play some candombe. Imagine the scene: Alphonso Johnson, Federico Ramos, Gary Fukushima and Chester Thompson plus several Uruguayan drummers right there… and I attempting to play one candombe pattern. It was an impossible mission. I played something different, a new kind of rhythm. Therefore, I offered Chester Thompson to take a lesson with one drummer who would certainly help him grasp an idea of our rhythm: the one and only Martín Ibarburu, of course. [This may be unfair with several other Uruguayan drummers who also play candombe very well, I know, but most of you know how much I like Martín’s music]. Chester Thompson had the good idea to accept and I had the fantastic task to take him to Martin’s home and introduce them one to the other.

Martín always amazes me for his humbleness, generosity and kindness with everyone. It was thrilling to discover that Chester was cut from the same cloth. I now invite you to imagine Martín telling Chester that it was an honor to have him in his house and Chester telling Martin that the honor was his. Witnessing that meeting was something absolutely amazing. Luckily I was invited to stay. That’s how I can tell you that these two are out of this world and not only as drummers.

After explaining a little about the rhythm, Martín showed it to him at the drumset. It was a delight to hear them talk about the structure of the rhythm and how Chester associated with several other latin rhythms he has already played. Without exaggerating, five minutes later Chester was playing his first candombe and sounding nearly Uruguayan!! Martín’s smile couldn’t be wider and I felt blessed to be able to witness all that.



Photo: Patricia

Chester ended showing to Martin a couple of things too, of course, and I felt that for that hour the entire planet was living a positive transformation.

This experience only would have been enough for my heart to feel joy for a year. But this was just the beginning.

That same day, at 6:00 pm, Chester Thompson would be offering his Master Class in Teatro Solís. So, at 5:30 pm I was entering for the first time in my life through the back door of the theater. I couldn’t believe how big and tall the backstage of the theater is! And how beautiful our beloved theater is seen from the stage! It’s a delight.

Chester arrived and we went a little over the concepts he was going to present, and he showed me with a pad of his how not to lose contact with the sticks and how to use fingers to have a better control of them. And there we went, to the stage. Unbelievable: Chester and I. Crazy, ha? Yes. I agree. Super crazy and fascinating. However, I must be honest here. I was not nervous anymore and I was not feeling like I was with a legend, with one of the very top drummers of the world. I felt calm and having the best, best time, because he made everything easy with his presence and kindness.



Photo: Pablo Avellino



Photo: Germán Suárez

(Thanks to Pablo Avellino and Germán Suárez for the pictures).

He spent one hour generously sharing his experience, his knowledge and his wisdom.

He insisted on his having had a very blessed life, having the chance to make music with the musicians he played (Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Phil Collins and so many others).

Among the concepts he shared, he suggested to practice everything starting with your right hand first and with your left hand later. Everything. He showed a warm up exercise, where he played a few notes on the bass drum and on them he played a single roll, a double roll and paradiddles with the hands (starting with R then L). “And if that is too easy, make it faster”, he said, and showed it. It was funny when he said that his right hand was funky and his left hand was straight, so he got a different feeling if he played with one or the other.

He talked about using the wrist only for the first hit but using fingers for all the others, with the elbows not separate from the body but loose, hanging at the sides.

He stressed the importance of listening to the whole band as if you were sitting at the audience. Not to listen to the drums; to listen to the band. He said that whenever you listen to a band from the audience and something sounds wrong is because some of the musicians is not listening to the band but to themselves. I must say I’ve been practicing this new perspective for listening and it makes a real difference in the outcome! And not only in the drumset but in life too.

People from the audience asked him how the experience of playing with two drums was. He said it was much more difficult than people usually think. He said that it was really important to have eye contact with the other drummer and to pay close attention and really listen. He explained how Ralph Humphrey and he felt music a little different and how they had to practice to manage to play well together. He also said that with Phil Collins it was different because they both felt music very similarly and from day one they played as if they were one only person.

Another question was about the position of his feet. He said he realized gravity was his friend and he used gravity in his favor. He places his heel not up and not down, somewhere in the middle.

I’m sorry that I made a big mistake: I forgot to record the clinic. Being on the stage, focused on translating, I know I am missing lots of information here, but if I get to remember, I’ll edit.

After the master class finished, magic went on and on: Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet played their concert in Solís Theater. You may read about that in a separate post.

I think it’s not by chance that his music is so outstanding. I’m convinced that in cases of superb musicians like him, it’s the soul we hear expressing. You may be a reasonably good musician and not transmit much. If you do transmit lots like in this case, you have learned to show your soul to the world.

I want to thank Jazz Tour and Cecilia Martínez-Gil for bringing Chester Thompson with Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet, for making a free master class possible, and for having chosen me as a link between this fantastic drummer and the wonderful drummers of Montevideo, who were delighted to have this opportunity and have expressed in several ways how good this clinic was.

Chester Thompson will always be welcomed here. Let us hope he will come again soon.

Listen! Drummer Chester Thompson

Screen print by Patricia

Screen print by Patricia

Next July 28th, 2016, Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet will be playing in Teatro Solís, in Montevideo. This means Uruguayans will have the rare chance of listening live to four wonderful musicians: Alphonso Johnson (bass), Chester Thompson (drums), Federico Ramos (guitar) and Gary Fukushima (keyboards). Some of us are really amazed at the fact that we will be able to attend a concert in which two ex Weather Report musicians will play on stage. This is something so unexpected as mind blowing.

Talking about surprising chances, please be my guest to read my interview to Chester Thompson.


Patricia Schiavone: We are really delighted that you are coming to Uruguay with Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet. You have played with Alphonso for a long time. I’d like to know what feels good about playing with this particular quartet with him.

Chester Thompson: We have not played together yet with this quartet. When I get to Los Angeles we will play for the first time. I think he has been playing with them, yes, but it will be the first time to me. But I’ve played with him many, many times and I think we breathe the same when we play.

PS: What does it mean to breathe the same when you play?

CT: It’s like we are so close, we are like one instrument.

PS: Singers usually seek a special emotional state before singing a song. Do you do anything similar?

CT: Sometimes… It depends on what I’m doing. To me it’s very simple. My very simple job is to listen. And I trust it: If I’m listening, then the right thing will happen.

PS: What do you listen to?

CT: When I’m playing, I don’t listen to me. I only listen to the other musicians. It’s like if I’m sitting in the audience and I’m listening to a band. If you listen to a band, you know everything is working ok. And if it’s not working ok, that means somebody is not listening. It means somebody on the stage is only listening to themselves.

PS: I’ve heard you really concentrate when you play.

CT: Yes, I don’t smile much [he laughs].

PS: Have you practiced that concentration somehow?

CT: Yes, yes. If I’m practicing, especially if I’m practicing something very difficult, very challenging, if I listen it comes much more cooked than if I think about it. If I think about it, the brain will make it confusing. I tell my students this: “Don’t think so much; only listen.” Because if not, you lose it. Music is to be listened to.

PS: You know, I wonder how did you manage not to hurt yourself when rehearsing for so many hours and touring so much.

CT: It’s very simple. If I’m doing something that hurts, I don’t do it anymore. Actually I’ve changed my technique many, many times. The moment it hurts, I change it. It’s a very physical instrument. You have to hear what your body says. Most drummers sit very, very low. I sit very, very high. My legs are very long and it feels natural to sit high, so that my legs are down. If I play with my legs up, it hurts my back very quickly, so to me it’s silly to do that. Also the drums should not be played with the elbows out. When you play in an orchestra, you learn to play with your elbows out a little bit, but in the drumset that does not work. In the drumset you have to be completely relaxed. And it’s really more fingers than anything with the sticks. A little bit of wrist and a lot of fingers. Not so much wrist and not so much arms.

PS: Tell me, have you had moments of stagnation, when you didn’t advance in your playing?

CT: Yes, of course. Many times.

PS: And how have you dealt with that?

CT: Well, you practice more [laughs].

But when you learn about listening… everything makes more sense. It’s more connected. Because there’s too much thinking, you are always thinking about what you do. And it is happening too fast to think about it. Even now, if I play something I know, if I start to think about it, I will make a mistake.

PS: Taking what you said about concentration and not thinking, do you practice meditation?

CT: No. I pray a lot. I’m a Christian. But to me it’s really about focusing on what I’m doing.

PS: If you could give a piece of advice to 13-year-old Chester, which would it be?

CT: [He laughs]. Oh, My Goodness! Wow. This is very interesting. I remember this guy [more laughs]. Because this is the year when I started playing in nightclubs. And this is also the reason why when my son was 13, I stopped touring, to be with him. For a boy it’s a crazy time, because inside you’re becoming a man but your mind is not of a man yet, and your body is changing. It’s very confusing. Mmm, I don’t know… I think I would tell me to just learn to relax. I think I would practice differently if I knew at that age what I know now. I enjoyed practicing. I never had a problem to practice. But, I would tell him to listen more. Not only to music but also to people. I was not a tough guy. One of my pleasures was reading. I used to read a lot, and I still like reading. Maybe, I’d tell me to be patient, although I was at that age. But I remember that it was a confusing time. I grew without a father. My mother was great, but at that age a boy needs a father to talk to. I think I would have had more discipline if I had had a father. Not in drums, because I had discipline in it, but in everything else.

PS: If your students took home only one lesson from you, which one would you like it to be?

CT: Well, there’s a couple of things. First, if it’s difficult, play it very slowly… many, many times and you will hear it get better each time. And this in combination with the listening. Because we cannot be in hurry to be fast. If you do it over and over, speed will come anyway. And sometimes I tell my students, if they almost have it but not quite, I tell them: “OK, next time when you play it, I want you to listen and to imagine that you are teaching someone else how to do this, and that you are listening to see if they are playing it correctly”. Then, they always play it right.

PS: Why is that so? What does teaching have to do with it?

CT: Because it changes the side of the brain. The listening side and the creative side is different to the intellectual side. That is why we can enjoy music: because music can take us to another place. I mean, sometimes you need to do both [listening and thinking]. When I have to read music, I have to do both and it takes a long time to be able to do both. But in the beginning, when you are just trying to learn, it’s important to slow it down, use the brain to keep the time. If you listen and not stop when you make a mistake, if you just do it over and over and over, if it gets a little bit better each time, then it’s good. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time or the second time.

PS: Why did you choose to teach?

CT: Oh, I only started teaching because in the university where my son is going the drum teacher left. They asked if I would come and teach. And I didn’t like what he was teaching my son; I didn’t like the way he taught. I always want to give my son everything, but it’s very difficult to teach your son. Suddenly, I had the situation that I could teach him and if he didn’t listen to me, instead of giving him an A, I’d give him an F. And I get paid, also! [laughs]. So, it was only to teach my son, because I wanted to make sure he had the right thing.

PS: And what happened then. Did you enjoy teaching?

CT: Yes, I found that I really liked it. Because I used to never teach, I have to say. If somebody asked me, I used to answer “No, I don’t teach”. But after this I found I really enjoyed teaching, I really like it… but I like playing more [he smiles].

PS: Have you been in South America before?

CT: Not in Uruguay. You see, three years ago I made a tour for DW drums and I’ve been to Brazil a few times, to Ecuador, Lima, Perú, Central America a few times, Salvador. I’ve been to Buenos Aires in Argentina, but I’ve never been to Montevideo.

PS: Now that you mention Brazil. How did you meet Hermeto Pascoal?

CT: Oh, man. I was playing with Airto and Flora. I knew these people from Weather Report. And they asked me if I wanted to record with Hermeto and I was very excited.

PS: Did you meet the pigs during the recording?

CT: [Laughs]. No, no, no. I didn’t meet the pigs. And after the recording I was in his house, in Brazil, and there were no pigs. [Laughs].

[Chester Thompson recorded, together with Alphonso Johnson, 3 tracks of Hermeto Pascoal’s CD “Slaves Mass”, 1977. Two pigs were taken to the studio to be included in the recording].

PS: Do you remember how did playing with Weather Report feel?

CT: [He smiles in a very beautiful way]. Oh, goodness. It was magic. Really, really amazing. By the time I started playing with them I had played with Frank Zappa, which was completely different. I had gone to rehearse in Los Angeles and somebody told me that Weather Report was looking for a new drummer and he told me to come and jam with them. I told him that I’d like to come and jam but I did not want to audition. He kept saying, oh, no, it’s not an audition. So I went there, and of course there was another drummer there. I was very fortunate to have been chosen. The other drummer was very good. They asked me if I could play with another drummer but I had already played with another drummer with Zappa and I told them I didn’t want to do that again.

PS: Why not?

CT: Because to play with Weather Report you have to have freedom.

PS: But then you played with another drummer, with Phil Collins!

CT: Oh, yes. He asked me because he knew I had played with another drummer with Zappa. I mean, Ralph Humphrey is a fantastic drummer, but we feel music very different. It we listened very closely, it was ok. But with Phil Collins, from the very first time we played it felt like we were one person; it felt as if we were playing together for a few years. So it was very easy.

PS: That amazes me, because the styles of music you played before were completely different.

CT: Yes, but he listened to the same people I listened to: Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Tony Williams. So we grew up listening to the same music. I had not listened to so many British musicians as him, but we both listened to the same jazz musicians. Playing together was very natural.

PS: Have you had the chance to listen to some candombe or not?

CT: Not so much. I’m curious.

PS: You have been in bands that have split apart and you have been in bands that have stayed together for a long time. What do you think it is necessary for a band to stay together long.

CT: It’s such a difficult question. I don’t know… chemistry. Everybody has to want the same thing. And you have to be patient. You cannot be selfish. It’s important to see what is best for everybody. In Genesis we had a very unusual chemistry. I had never seen something like this. There was no leader. People think there was a leader, but there was no leader. We were all equal. And the Manager was just as important as musicians.

PS: Why is it that you sold not many copies of your first solo album, “A Joyful Noise” (1999)? (*)

CT: Well, you have to have promotion, advertising. The company is very small and the copies are distributed by another company, which makes more efforts for musicians who record under their label.

PS: Chester Thompson, it will be a real pleasure to have you here. I heard you say that if you had a superpower you would like to make everybody feel joy. I would like to tell you that you are already making people feel joy with your playing. Thank you.

 CT: Thank you!

Screen print by Patricia

Screen print by Patricia

(*) His first solo album, “A Joyful Noise” was released in 1991, receiving excellent critic in the jazz circles. This record was re-edited in 1999. In 2013 he released his album “Approved”. I must say I’ve listened to both and they are, as I expected, wonderful masterpieces. I fully recommend you to get a hold of both of them.

Chester Thompson has played, recorded and toured with Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, and Phil Collins.

As a session player, he worked with several pop, rock, jazz, rhythm and blues, and religious performers, including Neil Diamond, Ron Kenoly, Duane Eddy, John Fogerty, George Duke, Michael McDonald, Steve Hackett, Kirk Whalum, Andy Williams, Denny Jiosa, Donna Summer, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Andrew Oh, Hermeto Pascoal, and others.

Believe it or not: Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet will play in Teatro Solís

On July 28th, 2016.

An additional note on the 28th show: Guitar player Federico Ramos is Uruguayan, born in Treinta y Tres. He has played with several musicians: Eduardo Mateo, Ruben Rada, Hugo Fattoruso, José Luis Pérez, Dr. Yusef Lateef, Jon Anderson, Milton Nascimento, Ray Brown, Jr., Freddie Hubbard, Cheb Mami, Joan Sebastian, Alejandro Fernández, Vicente Fernández, Jon Hassell, Mark Isham, Elton John, James Moody, Terry Plumeri, Hans Zimmer, John Powell, etc.

Listen! Entrevista a Chester Thompson

Print Screen by Patricia

Print Screen by Patricia


El próximo 28 de julio de 2016, Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet estará tocando en el Teatro Solís, en Montevideo. Esto significa que los uruguayos vamos a tener la rara oportunidad de escuchar en vivo a estos cuatro músicos maravillosos: Alphonso Johnson (bajo), Chester Thompson (batería), Federico Ramos (guitarra) y Gary Fukushima (teclados). Algunos de nosotros estamos realmente sorprendidos por el hecho de que podremos ir a un concierto en el que van a tocar dos músicos que formaron parte de la banda Weather Report. Esto es algo muy inesperado y a algunos nos vuela la cabeza.  

Hablando de oportunidades sorprendentes, los invito a leer mi entrevista a Chester Thompson.

Estamos fascinados de que está viniendo a Uruguay con el Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet. Usted ha tocado durante décadas con Alphonso. Me gustaría saber qué se siente bien al tocar con él en este cuarteto en particular.

Con este cuarteto aún no hemos tocado juntos. Cuando llegue a Los Ángeles tocaremos los cuatro por primera vez. Pienso que ellos sí pero será la primera vez para mí. Pero con Alphonso sí toqué muchas, muchas veces. Y respiramos lo mismo cuando tocamos.

¿Qué significa que respiran lo mismo cuando tocan?

Estamos tan cerca que somos como un mismo instrumento.

Los cantantes a menudo buscan un estado emocional especial antes de cantar una canción. ¿Usted hace algo similar?

A veces… Depende de lo que esté haciendo. Para mí es muy simple. Mi trabajo es escuchar. Confío en eso: si escucho, sucederá lo correcto.

¿Qué escucha?

Cuando estoy tocando no me escucho a mí. Solo escucho a los otros músicos. Es como que estoy sentado en la audiencia y estoy escuchando a una banda. Si escuchas a una banda, sabes que todo está funcionando bien. Si no está funcionando, significa que alguien no está escuchando; significa que alguien sobre el escenario solo se está escuchando a sí mismo.

Usted se concentra mucho cuando toca.

Sí, no sonrío mucho [se ríe].

¿Ha practicado esa concentración de alguna manera?

Sí, sí. Si estoy practicando, especialmente si estoy practicando algo muy difícil, muy desafiante, si escucho, surge mucho mejor que si pienso. Si pienso, el cerebro lo vuelve confuso. Yo les digo a mis alumnos lo siguiente: “No piensen tanto; solo escuchen”. Porque si no, te pierdes. La música es para ser escuchada.

Me pregunto cómo ha logrado no lastimarse al ensayar por tantas horas y hacer tantas giras.

Es muy simple. Si hago algo que duele, no lo hago más. De hecho he cambiado mi técnica muchas, muchas veces. Si duele, la cambio. Es un instrumento muy físico. Hay que escuchar lo que te dice el cuerpo. La mayoría de los bateristas se sientan muy, muy bajo. Yo me siento muy, muy alto. Tengo piernas muy largas y siento natural sentarme alto, como para que las piernas estén abajo. Si toco con las piernas arriba, enseguida me duele la espalda, así que me parece una tontería hacer eso.

Por otro lado, no hay que tocar la batería con los codos hacia afuera. Cuando tocas en una orquesta, aprendes a tocar con tus codos un poco para afuera, pero en la batería eso no funciona. En la batería hay que estar completamente relajado.

Y con los palillos se trata mucho más de dedos que de cualquier otra cosa. Un poquito de muñeca y mucho de dedos. No tanto de muñecas y no tanto de brazos.

¿Ha pasado por momentos de estancamiento, en los que ha sentido que no avanzaba en su toque?

Sí, por supuesto. Muchas veces.

¿Y cómo se supera eso?

Bueno… practicando más [risas].

Pero cuando aprendes a escuchar, todo tiene más sentido, está más conectado. Porque solemos pensar demasiado. Estamos siempre pensando en lo que hacemos. Y esto [tocar] sucede demasiado rápido para poder pensarlo. Inclusive ahora, si toco algo que sepa y empiezo a pensar, cometo un error.

Teniendo en cuenta la concentración y el no pensar, ¿usted practica meditación?

No. Rezo mucho. Soy cristiano. Pero para mí en verdad se trata de focalizar en lo que estoy haciendo.

Si pudiera darle un consejo al Chester de trece años, ¿cuál sería?

[Se ríe] ¡Dios mío! Pah. Muy interesante. Me acuerdo de ese joven [más risas]. Porque ese fue el año en que empecé a tocar en clubes. Y esta también fue la razón por la que cuando mi hijo tenía trece años dejé de hacer giras, para estar con él. Para un joven esa es una época muy loca, porque internamente estás volviéndote un hombre pero la mente todavía no es de un hombre, y el cuerpo está cambiando. Es muy confuso. Mmm, no sé… pienso que me diría que aprendiera a relajarme. Creo que habría practicado diferente si en aquel tiempo hubiese sabido lo que sé ahora. Nunca tuve problema con practicar. Lo disfrutaba. Pero le diría que escuchara más. No solo música sino también a la gente. Yo no era un muchacho duro. Uno de mis placeres era leer. Leía mucho en ese tiempo y todavía me gusta hacerlo. Quizás me diría que fuera más paciente. Aunque ya lo era en ese tiempo. Pero recuerdo que era un momento de confusión. Yo crecí sin padre. Mi madre fue fantástica pero a esa edad un chico necesita un padre para hablar. Creo que habría sido más disciplinado si hubiese tenido padre. No con la batería, porque lo era, pero en todo lo demás.

Si sus alumnos se llevaran un solo aprendizaje, ¿cuál le gustaría que fuera?

Bueno, hay un par de cosas. Primero, si es difícil, tócalo muy despacio… muchas, muchas veces, y oirás que mejora cada vez. Esto combinándolo con la escucha. Porque no podemos estar apurados para lograr velocidad. Si lo haces vez tras vez, la velocidad vendrá de todos modos. Y a veces, cuando mis alumnos están en ese punto en que casi lo logran pero no del todo, les digo: “OK, la próxima vez que lo toques quiero que escuches y te imagines que le estás enseñando a otra persona cómo se hace, y que estás escuchando para ver si lo está tocando correctamente”. Ahí siempre lo tocan bien.

¿Por qué pasa eso? ¿Qué tiene que ver la enseñanza?

Es porque cambia el lado del cerebro que se usa. El lado de la escucha y la creatividad es diferente al lado intelectual. Es por eso que podemos disfrutar la música: porque la música nos puede llevar a otro lugar. O sea, algunas veces necesitas hacer ambas cosas [escuchar y pensar]. Cuando tengo que leer música, tengo que hacer ambas, y lleva un tiempo largo poder hacer las dos. Pero al principio, cuando estás recién tratando de aprender, es importante enlentecer, usar el cerebro para mantener el tiempo. Si escuchas y no te detienes cuando cometes un error, si simplemente lo haces vez tras vez y mejora un poquito cada vez, entonces está bien. No tiene que salir perfecto la primera o la segunda vez.

¿Cómo se dio la elección de enseñar?

Ah, empecé a enseñar solo porque en la universidad a la que va mi hijo se fue el profesor de batería. Me preguntaron si yo podría ir a enseñar. Y no me gustaba lo que le enseñaba a mi hijo; no me gustaba la forma en que enseñaba. Me gusta darle todo a mi hijo, pero es muy difícil enseñarle a tu hijo. De pronto estuve en la situación en la que podía enseñarle y si él no me escuchaba, en lugar de ponerle un 10, le podía poner un 5. ¡Y además me pagaban! [risas]. Así que fue solo para enseñarle a mi hijo, porque quería asegurarme de que recibiera una buena enseñanza.

¿Y qué pasó después? ¿Enseñar se volvió disfrutable?

Sí, descubrí que me gustaba mucho. Porque debo decir que antes no enseñaba nunca. Si alguien me preguntaba, solía responder: “No, yo no enseño”. Pero luego de esto descubrí que realmente disfrutaba enseñar. Realmente me gusta… pero me gusta más tocar [se sonríe].

¿Ha estado antes en Sudamérica?

No en Uruguay. Hace tres años hice una gira para DW y estuve en Brasil algunas veces, en Ecuador, Lima (Perú), en América Central también algunas veces, en Salvador… Estuve en Buenos Aires (Argentina) pero nunca en Montevideo.

Ahora que menciona a Brasil, ¿cómo conoció a Hermeto Pascoal?

Pah. Yo estaba tocando con Airto y Flora. Los conocía de Weather Report. Y me preguntaron si quería grabar con Hermeto y me entusiasmó.

¿Conoció a los cerditos durante la grabación?

[Risas]. No, no, no. No conocí a los cerdos. Y luego de la grabación estuve en su casa, en Brasil, y no había cerdos. [Risas].

[Chester Thompson grabó, junto con Alphonso Johnson, 3 pistas del CD “Slaves Mass” de Hermeto Pascoal, año 1977. Se llevaron dos cerditos al estudio para incluirlos en la grabación].

¿Se acuerda del sentimiento al tocar con Weather Report?

[Se sonríe de una forma muy bella]. ¡Por Dios! Era mágico. Realmente, realmente sorprendente. Antes de empezar a tocar con ellos, yo había tocado con Frank Zappa, que era completamente diferente. Había ido a Los Angeles a ensayar y alguien me dijo que Weather Report estaba buscando un nuevo baterista y que fuera a una jam con ellos. Yo dije que me gustaba la idea de ir y tocar con ellos pero que no quería audicionar.  Él insistía: “No, no, no es una audición”. Así que fui y, por supuesto había otro baterista. Tuve mucha suerte de que me hayan elegido. El otro baterista era muy bueno. Me preguntaron si yo podría tocar con otro baterista también pero yo ya había tocado con otro baterista con Zappa y les dije que no quería hacerlo de nuevo.

¿Por qué no?

Porque para tocar con Weather Report tienes que tener libertad.

Pero luego tocó con otro baterista, con Phil Collins.

Sí. Él me pidió porque sabía que había tocado con otro baterista con Zappa. O sea, Ralph Humphrey es un baterista fantástico, pero sentimos la música de manera muy diferente. Si escuchábamos muy bien, todo salía bien. Pero con Phil Collins desde la primera vez que tocamos se sentía como si fuésemos una sola persona; se sentía como si hubiésemos tocado juntos por años. Así que fue muy fácil.

Eso me sorprende, porque los estilos de música que usted tocaba antes eran completamente diferentes.

Sí, pero él escuchaba a la misma gente que yo escuchaba: Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Tony Williams. Así que crecimos escuchando la misma música. Yo no había escuchado a muchos músicos británicos que él sí, pero ambos habíamos escuchado a los mismos músicos de jazz. Tocar juntos fue muy natural.

¿Ha tenido la oportunidad de escuchar algo de candombe o no?

No mucho. Tengo curiosidad.

Ha estado en bandas que se separaron y en bandas que han permanecido juntas por un tiempo largo. ¿Qué es necesario para que una banda se mantenga junta por un buen tiempo?

Qué pregunta difícil. No sé… la química. Todos tienen que querer lo mismo. Y ser pacientes. No se puede ser egoísta. Es importante observar qué es lo mejor para todos. En Genesis teníamos una química muy inusual. Yo nunca había visto algo como eso. No había líder. La gente piensa que había un líder pero no había. Todos éramos iguales. Y el manager era igual de importante que los músicos.

¿Por qué no vendió muchas copias del primer disco solista, “A Joyful Noise” (1999)? (*)

Bueno, hay que hacer propaganda. El sello era muy chico y las copias se distribuían con otra empresa, la cual hacía más esfuerzos por los músicos que grababan bajo su sello.

Chester Thompson, será un verdadero placer recibirlo aquí. Lo oí decir que si tuviera un superpoder, le gustaría hacer que todo el mundo sintiera alegría. Me gustaría decirle que usted ya está generando alegría con su música. Gracias.

Gracias a ti.


Print screen by Patricia

Print screen by Patricia


(*) Su primer álbum solista, “A Joyful Noise”, fue editado en 1991, recibiendo excelentes críticas en los círculos de jazz. Este disco se reeditó en 1999 con otro sello. En 2013 editó su segundo álbum “Approved”. Debo decir que escuché ambos y son, como me lo esperaba, un par de obras de arte maravillosas. Les recomiendo totalmente conseguirlos .

Chester Thompson tocó, grabó y participó en giras con Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, y Phil Collins.

Como músico sesionista, trabajó con varios músicos de pop, rock, jazz, rhythm and blues y música religiosa, entre los cuales están Neil Diamond, Ron Kenoly, Duane Eddy, John Fogerty, George Duke, Michael McDonald, Steve Hackett, Kirk Whalum, Andy Williams, Denny Jiosa, Donna Summer, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Andrew Oh, Hermeto Pascoal, y otros.

Aunque cueste creerlo: Alphonso Johnson’s Quartet tocará en el Teatro Solís. El 28 de julio de 2016.

Una nota adicional acerca del show del 28: El guitarrista Federico Ramos es uruguayo, nacido en Treinta y Tres. Ha tocado con una gran cantidad de músicos: Eduardo Mateo, Ruben Rada, Hugo Fattoruso, José Luis Pérez, Dr. Yusef Lateef, Jon Anderson, Milton Nascimento, Ray Brown, Jr., Freddie Hubbard, Cheb Mami, Joan Sebastian, Alejandro Fernández, Vicente Fernández, Jon Hassell, Mark Isham, Elton John, James Moody, Terry Plumeri, Hans Zimmer, John Powell, etc.

Entrevistadora: Patricia Schiavone