Viva Jazz! San Antonio celebrates National Jazz Month

Louis Armstrong once said, “Jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it. Always love it.” and during the month of April, we celebrate National Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in appreciation and love for the iconic genre.

JAM was created in 2002 by John Edward Hasse PhD, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Initially funded by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, it was made to be an annual event to take place at the museum itself paying tribute to the entire gene of Jazz whether it be ragtime, bebop, blues, late or modern. Appreciation for Jazz has since snowballed into a nationally acclaimed month where it is celebrated all over the country.

Here in San Antonio, we will be celebrating our love for Jazz at Main Plaza with a concert series called Viva Jazz! that will be taking place April 4-8. Viva Jazz! celebrates the genre with a San Antonio twist as we celebrate Latino/as playing Jazz music here in our very own city.

Sobre Sound caught up with trumpet player Tony Romero whom we’ve dubbed as our personal ambassador to Jazz. Tony is in the heart of the happening with the San Antonio , playing at various locations with his band the Spiders all around San Antonio and has residency at both Main Plaza and Luke playing Jazz.

Sobre Sound: When did you get your start in music? Have you always been a Jazz musician?

Tony Romero: I started playing when I was about 10 yrs old. I joined my school concert band and stuck with it through H.S. About sophomore year I heard a Clifford Brown & Max Roach recording and grew attached to a song titled Daahoud. My band Director (Mr. Michael Pavlik) was a trumpet player and saw that I had serious interest in the instrument, and took me under his wing.

Sobre: Explain to us what you do at Main Plaza and your band the Spiders.

Romero: When I first moved to San Antonio, I left Chicago with the idea that I wanted to play Jazz music, but in the same arena as rock and pop music acts, because if I could attract the non-Jazz listeners to dig what I was doing it’d make things ok. So I needed a band name that was a little different. I came up with the Spiders. I eventually got a gig somehow at Main Plaza and through the course of playing there for about 4 yrs. one day I offered my services at the perfect moment landing me the position of programs coordinator. Now I get to book bands and coordinate music events on the plaza. Pretty cool

Sobre: What can you tell me about Viva Jazz? How did the idea come about?

Romero: Viva Jazz corresponds with Jazz Appreciation month of April! It is in its fourth year and we feature all local San Antonio musicians, which is a great thing for the Alamo city. Most musicians here say that our Jazz scene is way more exciting than Austin. I believe that to be true! We have so many traditional players here that can be going off joining bands of multiple genres but stick to the Jazz roots. So it’s a purist town and we don’t mind playing dinosaur music for these young crowds. They love it!

Sobre: What can you tell us about Latino influenced Jazz?

Romero:  Jazz took a turn on a many levels of evolution from Dixieland, bebop to fusion, Jazz funk, rock, hip hop and on. Music in Latino America is mega strongly relative to the origins of music from Africa. Dizzy Gillespie the grand innovator created the Afro-Cuban sound incorporating Latin rhythms and conga drum to the Jazz idiom, thus creating the baby monster that now is called Latin Jazz, incorporating the best musicians around the world fusing the now evolved Afro-Cuban sound with Salsa, Mambo, rumba and boogaloo.

Sobre: A question I like to ask everyone I interview, what do you think about music being made here in San Antonio as a whole? What do you think San Antonio sounds like?

Romero: SA town has grown so much from the first time I traveled here. Like everywhere else San Anto has its own sound and that is such a great thing because a lot of bigger cities try too hard to do what has already been done. Musicians down here are very humble and are not afraid to be themselves. The next Selena and or Kurt Cobain type is alive and well in San Antonio Tejas. It’s up to you to support them. If people don’t come out to our shows and help blow us up how will they hear about how cool we are in Austin? It will take all of us as a whole! I think it’s time for peeps in Austin to jump in their cars and come down here on the weekends.

Viva Jazz! Will be taking place out on Main Plaza Monday, April 4 to Friday April 8. Tuesday and Friday performances will be accompanied by the visuals on the San Fernando Cathedral by French artist, Xavier de Richemont from 6- 9 p.m. “Viva Jazz is a great opportunity to come out get some fresh air in the heart of the city,” Romero concluded, “Support your local Jazz all stars. Go meet them! Shake some hands! Ask when the next gig is! Get hip to some Jazz and keep it strong in good ol’ San Antone.”

 The schedule of performances is as followed:






FRIDAY, APRIL 8         11A-2P         KEVIN NABORS

FRIDAY, APRIL 8         6P-9P         TONY ROMERO

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