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Juan José Calatayud: 1939-2003
Juan José Calatayud

Born: July 1939 in Cordoba, Mexico
Died: March 23, 2003 in Mexico City, Mexico

Pianist was a major figure in jazz in Mexico

by Alain Derbez
Copyright © 2003 Alain Derbez


"Why should Juan José Calatayud be in a Jazz encyclopedia?" I asked the pianist from Córdoba, Veracruz, in a long interview that I included in my book Jazz in Mexico.

"Perhaps," he answered plainly, sincere as he was always, "because of my incursion in jazz coming from the Academy and, to my surprise, because I've been invited to jazz festivals here and there. Or what do you think?"

"Maybe one would say," I answered, "that the reason for your appearance in a jazz world encyclopedia would be the same that explains Dave Brubeck's presence. In Mexico, as it happened with Brubeck in U.S.A., when you started playing jazz in the 1960s you created new audiences: young people who would enter the jazz world not in a jazz club but in a theater, in a University, in cultural forums."

That was an interview we recorded for radio in 1991. I transcribed it for my book. Calatayud appears in it several times, as he appeared as an uninterrupted reference in Mexican jazz since he started playing with his trio 3.14.16.

That was his group which suffered the 1965 car accident that disabled the pianist's use of his legs and then the piano pedals, but didn't make him abandon music or forget about the joy of living every moment with intensity.

Juan Jose Calatayud, jazz master, life teacher, enthusiastic peace lover, intelligent and creative human being died on Sunday, March 23, in Mexico City. I don´t believe it, not as long as we want him to stay alive.

Here we have the memories of his concerts, for example the one he gave in the National Auditorium in a jazz festival in 1971, sharing the stage with Thelonious Monk. And those evenings in which he played Gershwin's music as a soloist with the National Symphonic Orchestra or the University Philarmonic Orchestra, among other ensembles.

Here we have his records and discs playing baroque music and jazz long before Jacques Loussier came to play in Mexico from France; his Porgy and Bess interpretations, his popular Mexicans songs played from a jazz point of view. We have his recordings and our memories of him, still.

Alain Derbez
Alain Derbez is a member of the JJA based in Mexico.


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