The origins of jazz can be traced to the unabashedly vivacious city of New Orleans around the turn of the 20th century, a place that welcomed cultures from across the globe at the 1884 World’s Fair. One of those cultures was that of Mexico, which came with a military band and never left. It blended in with the Creole and African roots, leaving an impression upon those who started organized jazz in Mexico in the 1950s.
Jazz has now hit a new wave in Mexico, a growth of creativity, according to unofficial cultural ambassador and host of KRTU’s Jazz de Mexico Jorge Canavati. Canavati is taking a troupe of his loyal fans to explore Mexico City on a quest for jazz duende, that unmistakable spirit in the music that we might call “the pocket” or Dean Moriarty would call “it.”
The maiden voyage for Mexico City Jazz Tours, an all-inclusive three-day, two-night stay in the heart of Distrito Federal‘s cultural epicenter, departs Aug. 24 and gives music lovers an intimate look at the top-shelf of jazz, all while allowing space for the crew to explore and meet a handful of the 23 million people who call the city home.
There is still room on the tour and those interested can contact Canavati at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canavati, like many jazz musicians, seems to be a man of improvised calculation. His idea for the tour came from equal parts inspiration and innovation.
“A listener calls in and asks when I’m going to take him to Mexico City to listen to jazz,” Canavati recalled. “I began to design the product, talked to hotels, airlines, clubs – it’s all about logistics which is what I do for a living.”
A native of Mexico and the son of a Mexican diplomat and trade commissioner to New York, Canavati has spent years traveling to his native country as well as across the world, mostly on business in international logistics and trade. The inception of the KRTU program Jazz de Mexico established strong personal bonds between Canavati and jazz artists of Mexico, relationships which have been integral to this undertaking.
The venture won’t be done quietly, as Canavati’s self-ascribed Vito Corleone-style – in a good way, he said – has turned the experience into a cultural event between our city and Mexico’s.
“The government of the city embraced this because this is a new form of promoting the culture between SA and Mexico,” Canavati said. “They will be sponsoring a luncheon for the group.”
If you listen to Canavati’s Jazz de Mexico Sunday evenings at 8 p.m., it’s easy to see how his charisma and genuine passion for music come through with a kind of familial congeniality, underlining his nature to connect.
If you tuned in this past Sunday you heard Canavati with the Laboriel brothers, well-established jazz musicians in Mexico, riffing on his connection with their entire family as if they were reclining in rocking chairs sipping cervezas.
“It is my pleasure and KRTU’s to share your music with the world,” Canavati said during the interview, amid a generous display of gratitude to the musicians.
“These are old friends. I pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m working on this,’” Canavati said of his compadres who helped make this an official celebration. “I hope that this will expand soon. I may do a blend of some culinary tours as well, there are unbelievable jazz fests all over the country.”
Canavati’s radio show was a bold proposition in 2010 that turned into a weekly gig and has flourished with a solid listenership from across the world.
“I tell stories, things about my experiences with these musicians you are hearing live, that’s very important to the audience,” he said. “I think people are intrigued that we have a personal relationship with the artists, it’s like inviting them into your home.”
A nationally recognized jazz artist in both her native Mexico and the U.S., vocalist Iraida Noriega has been a guest of Canavati’s. She said he has opened up doors for her as an artist in San Antonio.
“Jorge is one of those rare beings, truly passionate about music,” Noriega said via email from Mexico City. “Through concerts he has organized and produced, I have been fortunate enough to meet amazing people, amazing musicians, and most importantly to begin working on generating bridges for music between Mexico and San Antonio.”
The beauty of Canavati’s work, according to Noriega, is how it unites and brings us closer to the global heartbeat.
“The more we are able to see how the world functions in other places, the more we realize that our similarities are much bigger than our differences,” Noriega said. “I believe there is a lot of misinformation that can only be verified eye-to-eye, experienced on a personal level.”
We live in a time, Noriega said, where such cross-cultural experiences provide the platform for understanding.
“I believe there is a natural and mutual enrichment if (we are) allowed to flow freely and without judgment,” Noriega said. “Anything that brings us together helps to balance out the obvious need to divide and separate what we are experiencing everywhere.”
Canavati knows that people’s misconceptions about our neighbor to the south have kept them from the enlightenment and joy that he feels when listening to and sharing music.
“There is so much negative press, but there are wonderful things coming out of Mexico,” Canavati said, discussing the origin of his program. “We are the only program platform doing this in the world, we are riding a wave and that wave is going to continue.”
Email Canavati at email@example.com if you are interested in joining this three-day, two-night exploration of Mexico City’s jazz scene alongside many of the city’s top leaders and cultural ambassadors.
Featured photo: Iraida Noriega shares her music live in concert in San Antonio. Photo courtesy of KRTU.