The Infinite Possibilities of Marta Sánchez

Spanish pianist/composer Marta Sánchez exemplifies the freedom available for jazz composers eager to hone a personal sound.


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Photo by Tayla Nebsky

With the lack of a dominant aesthetic and a steady influx of musicians from around the world, this is an age of possibilities in jazz offering infinite space for idiosyncratic stylistic combinations and hybrids.

Spanish pianist/composer Marta Sánchez exemplifies the freedom available for composers eager to hone a personal sound. Growing up in Madrid, she was drawn to the piano and developed a self-conception as a composer long before jazz caught her ear. A concert by the Brad Mehldau Trio sparked an epiphany, opening wide a window into the ways European classical influences can shape a jazz performance.

After earning renown and a series of awards on the Spanish jazz scene, she made the move to New York City in 2011 to study at NYU with the support of a Fulbright Scholarship, but her real education took place at informal sessions and gigs. With her three critically hailed albums for Fresh Sound, 2015’s Partenika, 2017’s Danza Imposible, and the recently released El Rayo de Luz, Sánchez has presented a particularly flavorful body of tunes combining elements of rock, pop, classical, and experimental music within a jazz matrix.

Respectful of jazz tradition but not beholden to it, she’s creating music that ebbs, crests, and flows with an emotional logic all its own. For her return to the California Jazz Conservatory on Jan. 24, she brings a bi-coastal quintet featuring powerhouse Cuban alto saxophonist Roman Filiu, who’s also featured on El Rayo de Luz. Rounding out the band is a triumvirate of Berkeley-raised improvisers, with Oakland’s Evan Hughes and Raffi Garabedian on drums and tenor saxophone respectively, and Brooklyn bassist Noah Garabedian providing the pulse.

8 p.m. Fri, Jan. 24, California Jazz Conservatory’s Rendon Hall, 2040 Addison St., Berkeley, $20, 510-845-5373, CJC.edu/concerts.

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