ALFREDO LINARES Interview by Roberto Ernesto Gyemant (span) / Translation by Listen Recovery (eng) Part 1

alfredo cover

Alfredo Linares

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Maestro!, When where you born?

I was born on February 27th in 1944, in Lima Peru.

And when did you interest for music started?

Well, in my house my father used to tune pianos, also he would restored the pianos technically.  We had 18 pianos at home.  Everything started there, I would watch him fix the pianos and of course, I would also wanted to do it.  I notice that the labor in fixing pianos was a delicate thing.  Even more, in those times, we did not have all the electronics we have nowadays, the tuners that help your work be much easier and with less risk.

Did he used ‘diapason? (a tonal grouping of the flue pipes of a pipe organ)

Sure, yes it was like a ‘varilla’.  He would play a note (LA) and from there it would form the reference point for all the other notes.

From what I see, you where able to build a great sense of hearing to tone pianos from an early age.

Did you father played the piano?

More tuning  than playing, he played the guitar.

What job well compensated?, Did it give you a better quality of life?

Well, in reality I was born in pobrety, in a area where most of the neighbors where from low financial income.  Mi father is from Arequipa, he was a “chakran”, that is what they would call the people that worked the fields.  After he migrated to Lima.  Mi mother was from the north, from Trujillo,  she also came looking for a better life.  Like the song said “The crazy illusions got me out of my town”.  “That is how the song goes, right?”.  Then, both of them got to Lima, they found each other.  My dad need it a secretary… and from there they conceived me, then my sister.  My mothers already had a son from her prior marrige.

Then you guys are 3, right? and your brother?

Yes, we where 3, my brother is dead.  My sister lives in Lima.  Is been quite some time since I spoke to her last.  Well, my father was one of the few that fixed pianos in Peru, in that aspect, there was hardly any competition.  And using his name, which was very known, I formed a band.

What is your father’s name?

Angel Mariano Linares Salas and my mother is Aurora Saucedo Veneces.  Because my father was able to build certain relations via his music knowledge, my mother visited the Minister of Justice and Culture to solicit a letter of recommendation; she wanted me to be accepted at the Music Conservatory.  I was about 10 years old when I started to study in the conservatory.  The director was Mr. Rafael De Carpio and by coincidence he was also from the same town as my father (Arequipa).  Because I had already started to play the piano at home, I started to play music from the city.  Of course, he got excited and asked “Who tough how to play that?”.  I responded that I had learned from my father, because at home, my mother would play the guitar and I would follow with the piano.  I also told him that this was the way I learned to played Folk music from land and that I gained the skill to play ‘tondero’ and ‘valses’, an afro-peruvian music.

We have talked a bit about the abundance of folk music that exist in South America.  In Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and other countries.

Yes, is enormous.  Sometimes the people that live in this places don’t appreciate what they have.  When I was in the US I notice a good amount of North American musicians that would record folkloric music from Peru and Ecuador, for studies, understanding that the music will bring them a great versatility and would open other doors.

Of course, now that music is a great business… Susana Baca, Eva Ayllon, Alex Acuña.

Clearly!, Alex Acuña has created a group that follows Eva Ayllon.  Him and Justo Almario, a great saxophonist from Colombia, have formed a great solid group.  For sure, the discipline that you received from a conservatory is good, that is why, if you have a chance to study there, do it for sure.  It gives you discipline, a clear vision, security; because sometimes it can happen to what happen to me with some musicians:  they come one day, then the following day they don’t come, they put excuses and the projects get complicated, there is less attention to the work.  I’m not going to name names or point fingers because I was born in between pianos and musicians and I know that world.

Alfredo refrescandose

Tell me about your musical education

Since a boy I have always been involved with music.  At the age of 10 I was already part of a radio station.  My father took me, of course, I would have to play with other musicians.  It was a show for music fanatics, I had a part of a song that I had learned very well.  As well as I was aware of all the popular songs at that time.  That was in 1954!, “Sube espuma” I remember it was one of those songs, a Cuban composer Isolina Carillo.  An also Trio Sepia with Gillermo Aronto would practice at my house.

Why did they practice at you house? Is it because your father was a musican?

Clearly!. What would grown musically at our house was a local thing, very ‘criollo’ (creole).  Because in Peru did not exist a union of musicians, the problem was how to maintain a group economically.  In other words, sometimes the clients would tell my father:  “No, This are too many musicians for this show.  Please, no more than 3 or 4…”  Because of that, my father had to condense the group into less musicians.  He would only keep the indispensables ones.  Vocals, a guitarist, drummer.  Depending on the gig.

In the 50’s when you where 12-14 years old.  Did you get influence by ‘rock n’ roll’?  Bands like Chuck Berry’s and Little Richard or something like that?

Let me see… In those times La Sonora de Lucho Macedo y Ñico Estrada was popular, that is why I formed a “Sonora” (band).  I took advantage of my fathers name and I called my Sonora, “The Linares Orquestra”.  It was a commercial name. Most of the bands where very influence by the Sonora Matancera.  But I played where ever they would call me.

And your first recording?

That happen when I was 13 years old.  I recorded a single (45) with a singer call Koky Palacios.  And for real! I was 13…

13?

Yes, I also recorded with a group called “La Sonora Antillana”.  The title was “En el momento de Dios”

But back then it was not call Salsa?

No, logically was not.  It was a genre that in those times was call “tropical music”.  We are talking of the “Guaracha”, what we call today Salsa.  It had its names:  Guaracha, Son Montuno, Cha-Cha-Cha, etc.

And the Manbo?

The Mambos of Perez Prado have always been extraordinary.

And the Mexican films that presented Beny More, Casino La Playa and La Sonora Matancera?

Yes, the Mexican films had a great impact in Peru, It was bombarde with Mexican music influence.  The folklore Mexican music was a different type of music that was absorved, like rancheras, the corridos, the guapango, etc.  All the diversity of that great land.  There was also a tv series call “El aguila negra” for all the ‘pelaos’ or ‘muchachos’ as they call them here in Colombia.

Which was the song that you first recorded under your name?

“El Pompo”.  El Pompo was a very popular song back then.

Did you father tough you that one?

Believe it or not, he did not.  My father was already dead when I was 13.  During the time I was recording with the “Sonora Antillana”, the record label was ODEON/IEMPSA, Indurtrias Empresas Musicales Peruanas S.A.

And how was life in Peru during that time?  Was there work?

Now that I reminisce and think about it, I don’t think I was deprived from such things.  I live in a dignity poverty.  I think we where more like a low income type of class, but not poor.  It was an acceptable type of life.

The indigenous and African decedents suffer from all mayor economical privatisation during that time in Peru? I read last year in an article in the Yellow Press (PE) in Lima that during this times there was 4 white doctors living in a hotel while having black servants carrying their bags.

Yes, that’s why they are such warriors and fighters.  Ones like that can become a warrior in music.  In that era there was lots of racism in Peru.  Nowadays, who knows.  But back then the situation was very critical, even in the same high class societies. For example,  there was 3 pieces of the pie.  The biggest portion was the lower class, most of us, the second was the mid-class (blue collar people) as they call it in N. America and then was the higher class, that you can hardly see.  The high racism problems was a common thing.  In general the actions from the whites in politics and high social status / rich people is why the poor eat shit…

Yes. That is true.  They exclude them self from was divine and human.

Yes that’s true (laughs).  Like my fathers I was always good with people.  When I was 10 years old I played the piano at home, and my sister will charge at the door, the people would see me as a talented young boy, that’s why they would come and see me play.  Later, that money we would used it to buy fruits, to go to the theater and other kid things.

The Young musicians which you end up playing with during the 60’s, like Mario Allison, Coco Lagos, Nilo Espinosa.  Did you knew them already when you where young?

Not really… Nilo, Coco and Mario are older than me.

Linares

How did Coco and Mario notice about that kid with name Alfredo Linares, who played the piano in a marvelous way? (laughs)

We where almost the same age.  With an exception that I as in the process of formation musically.  When I studied in the conservatory at the same time, I would sponge most of the information in music.  I used to listen to Jazz.  During the time of Dave Brubeck and Lalo Schifrin,  when they did the soundtrack for “mission impossible”…

And Miles?

Yes Miles also, then John Coltrane. Miles Davis had a sextet with Charly Parker… no!, sorry, with Cannonball Addlerley.  And Also with Bill Evans in the piano and a very young Tony Williams in the drums.

Did you had already heard Art Tatum?

Not yet.  I first heard of Peterson, Oscar Peterson (Alfredo’s eyes looked emotional, looking down) before Art Tatum.  It seems that Peterson put lots of attention in to what Tatum was doing.  He was fantastic, Art Tatum was blind.

Have you seen the film of Ray Charles “Ray”?

Of course, there is a scene in which Ray finds Art Tatum.  He was a very incredible pianist.

I’m sure you had a bit of rock n’ roll, because later in the years you had composed a title  “Mambo Rock” and other

titles with some rock in it.

The first thing I heard was “La Sonora Matancera” when they came out with their single “Rock n’ Roll”,  I kinda copied that style.  After that I heard some boogie woogie, dixieland and other similar types of sounds.

Did you listen to the blues?

Yes, The blues have always impress me and also gospel music. I loved Gospel music.  Is where Jazz comes from, is all the same branches from one tree.  The Rock came out and the people dance to it.

En Colombia?

Yes in the 70’s

Like Classic Rock, Led Zeppelin, etc?

Some how, but mainly the music of James Brown. He was also connected to rock. At the same time I was listening to an Spanish Rock band call “Barrabas”, from the US a funk group call Mandrill, El Chicano, Earth-Wind & Fire, Kook & the Gang.  The people would dance to it, but there was not official dance steps for it, only free dancing.  But the girls!… they all liked it.  That is how I learned to dance it, and the girls would asked me to dance with them.  The way you dance here is a bit different (Colombia), is the way you dance in the Port of Buenaventura; in Cartagena the way of dancing is different, they dance a bit like Cubans, lifting a side of their pants and moving the shoulders… And then the dance changed here, more couples, more spinning, the balance and all the stuff.  And then the “Mambo Rock” and that was an explosion, because the people was already dancing to rock very well.  (Alfredo plays a Mambo Rock beat hitting his upper leg with his palms, pla! pla! pla!) The people felted it, it was like the past.  In the 70’s I had an experience in the “casetas”. There where some instalation made especially for dancing.  Large terrain areas where they would set up tables and chairs and like 5 thousand people dancing beautifully.

WOW!, Was it live music or programmed?

Nah! it was all live.  It was the right time to build “casetas” (Discotecas) because they would bring bands from all over, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, New York… even Rich Ray and Bobby Cruz came.

Interview with Maestro Alfredo Linares (continues in part 2)

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One Response to “ALFREDO LINARES Interview by Roberto Ernesto Gyemant (span) / Translation by Listen Recovery (eng) Part 1”

  1. […] ALFREDO LINARES Interview by Roberto Ernesto Gyemant (span) / Translation by Listen Recovery (eng) Part 2 continue from Part 1 […]

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