"My hope for the future of Jazz is to reignite interest among younger generations, to bring them back into contact with this rich musical tradition. There's an incredible depth and innovation in Jazz that I believe can resonate with contemporary audiences."
Marta Sánchez: Reflection of the Universe
Born and raised in Madrid, Spain, pianist and composer Marta Sánchez is actively working in the contemporary creative music scene in New York City and around the globe. Charting a significant path through her innovative and original music, she has reached an international audience, gaining significant global recognition. Marta’s main project, her quintet, was created soon after she moved to New York, and since then has released four albums: “Partenika” (2015), “Danza Imposible” (2017), and “El Rayo de Luz” (2019) with the Spanish label Fresh Sound and SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) with Whirlwind Recordings. All of the albums received high praise from American press. She has toured the United States, Europe, South America, and Central America, performing as a leader or as a sideman at prestigious venues and prominent festivals such as North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Eurojazz in Mexico City, Eurojazz in Athens, Jazz Festival Vitoria Gasteiz, Winter Jazz Festival in New York, and Madrid among many others.
(Marta Sánchez / Photo By By Kimberly M Wang)
In the United States she has performed at some of the most prestigious clubs including the Blue Note, Birdland, Roulette, Jazz Gallery, 55 Bar, The Cell Theater, Cornelia Street Cafe, or Blue Whale. She received prizes for the best soundtrack for short film in the festivals Alcalá de Henares, Curtficcion in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. In 2017 and 2021 she received the prestigious grant for a residency from the MacDowell Colony, where Marta wrote prepared piano repertoire. Marta Sanchez’s creative voice is strikingly original – circling rhythms, elaborate forms and criss-crossing counterpoint distinguishes her sonic signature on the crowded New York contemporary music scene. In 2022, following three critically acclaimed Marta's quintet released the album titled "SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum)" on Whirlwind Recordings, an album driven by emotional candour and boundary-pushing compositions.
How has the music influenced your views of the world? What moment changed your music life the most?
Music has had a big impact on how I see the world. It's like a tool that pushes me to dig deep into myself and think about what really matters—my values, priorities, and how I fit into the bigger picture. Creating art, especially through music, makes you look at the world from a personal and honest perspective. It forces you to ask important questions about life and figure out what you can bring to the table. A bunch of live concerts have played a huge role in shaping my musical journey. The first ones I attended helped me decide I wanted to be a musician. Later on, some concerts changed the direction I wanted to take with my music. Playing with certain people also had a big impact on how I see and approach music. It's not just one big event that changed everything; it's a mix of different experiences that have shaped my view of music and its connection to life.
How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
My music is like a reflection of the universe—something that's already there, and I'm just a channel for it. Since I am a filter for it, It's influenced by everything I am, what I've heard, and what I've studied. You'll find hints of 20th-century classical music, as well as inspiration from jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Andrew Hill, and Wayne Shorter. My culture plays a part too, along with my own fears and insecurities.
As for highlights in my life and career, it's about the ongoing journey of discovering and growing. Moving to new York was for sure something that influenced my life and career, the death of my father when I was 16, change my life and somehow made me want to pursue music, but whether hitting milestones, collaborating with talented folks, or tackling challenges, each experience shapes my musical identity. Overall, my philosophy is about keeping it real and staying connected, striving for honesty in every note.
"In recent years, there's been a concerted effort to make the jazz scene more equitable, addressing the challenges that female artists face in what has often been labeled a "Man's World," as James Brown once put it. Many women have courageously shared their experiences, and it seems that every woman in the industry can resonate with those narratives." (Marta Sánchez / Photo By By Kimberly M Wang)
What's the balance in music between technique and soul? Where does your creative drive come from?
Technique is important just to be able to play what you channel from the outside without limitations, but just for that. Related to what I said before, the creative drive comes from being connected to life, to the universe, being connected to people, to the present, to the music around you, being connected to yourself, etc.
Why do you think that the New York Jazz scene continues to generate such a devoted following?
The New York Jazz scene has a devoted following because it's massive compared to jazz scenes in other cities. Musicians from all over the world come to New York to learn, improve, and jam with others. It's a melting pot of different jazz styles with musicians always eager to collaborate, try new things, and play music together. There's a lot of competition, but that keeps things vibrant. You can catch amazing live music every night, and you're always meeting new musicians. All of this creates the perfect environment for people to be creative and grow, making some of the best music around.
What do you miss most nowadays from the Jazz of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
What I miss most from the Jazz of the past is its widespread popularity. Back then, Jazz was a mainstream genre, deeply connected to society and the cultural pulse. Nowadays, it has a more niche audience, and other music styles seem to have taken the spotlight in terms of reflecting current societal trends.
My hope for the future of Jazz is to reignite interest among younger generations, to bring them back into contact with this rich musical tradition. There's an incredible depth and innovation in Jazz that I believe can resonate with contemporary audiences. However, I also fear that as the older generation, which has been a steadfast audience for Jazz, diminishes, there might be a decline in overall interest and support for this genre. It's a concern about sustaining a vibrant Jazz community in the absence of the seasoned listeners who have been such a crucial part of its history.
"Music has had a big impact on how I see the world. It's like a tool that pushes me to dig deep into myself and think about what really matters—my values, priorities, and how I fit into the bigger picture. Creating art, especially through music, makes you look at the world from a personal and honest perspective." (Spanish pianist and composer Marta Sánchez / Photo By Charlotte Jacobs)
What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown once said? What is the status of women in music?
In recent years, there's been a concerted effort to make the jazz scene more equitable, addressing the challenges that female artists face in what has often been labeled a "Man's World," as James Brown once put it. Many women have courageously shared their experiences, and it seems that every woman in the industry can resonate with those narratives. Reflecting on my own journey, when I started playing jazz in Madrid, I was one of the few women in the scene. It required strength to navigate through, as beyond dealing with advances, earning respect proved to be more challenging. There was a constant need to demonstrate my abilities, facing subtle biases and sometimes overt discrimination. While it's not a universal experience, it definitely happened often.
Fortunately, there's been a positive shift, especially among the newer generations. Efforts have been directed at jazz schools where, historically, many women used to drop out. Now, there's a more balanced representation, with almost as many women as men in the younger generations. The evolving dynamics suggest that younger musicians treat each other more equally, breaking down traditional gender roles. Men are less hesitant to embrace femininity, and there's a more fluid approach to the roles in the jazz community, marking a hopeful change for the future.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Not sure if they are the most important ones, but some of them are:
-You have to learn to quiet the ego.
-You can’t be an artist and care about other people's opinions
-Everyone's got their own unique path in the music.
In a nutshell, these lessons underscore the importance of staying true to yourself, embracing the ups and downs of artistic growth, and recognizing that everyone's journey in the music world is a bit different.
"My music is like a reflection of the universe—something that's already there, and I'm just a channel for it. Since I am a filter for it, It's influenced by everything I am, what I've heard, and what I've studied. You'll find hints of 20th-century classical music, as well as inspiration from jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Andrew Hill, and Wayne Shorter. My culture plays a part too, along with my own fears and insecurities." (Marta Sánchez / Photo By Charlotte Jacobs)
Do you think there is an audience for jazz music in its current state? or at least a potential for young people to become future audiences and fans?
I touched on this a bit earlier, but I'm uncertain about the future. There's definitely potential, though. Places like Ornithology in Brooklyn are proof; they're consistently packed with young audiences. I believe young people would be more drawn to jazz if it were made more accessible. Not necessarily in terms of cost, but in making it more attractive. Venues could be less formal, with lower cover charges, and musicians dressing in a way that resonates with them. Creating an environment that feels more relatable might help bridge the gap and bring in a new wave of jazz enthusiasts.
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