A native of Madrid, Spain, pianist Marta Sánchez has quickly established herself as a major voice on her instrument since moving to New York in 2011. Grammy-nominated trombonist and Gallery favorite Alan Ferber describes her music thusly:
The ease with which Spanish pianist Marta Sanchez integrates folk elements from her native country’s rich music tradition with the harmonic sophistication and spontaneity of jazz is remarkable. Her artistry will undoubtedly produce many hours of compelling and important music in the coming years.
You can hear one of these compelling hours of Sánchez’s music on her new record Partenika (Fresh Sound). With her quintet in tow, Sánchez will be celebrating the release of this record at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, March 12th. We caught up with her by phone to discuss writing for the particular members of her band and taking inspiration from surprising sources.
The Jazz Gallery: Two saxophones seems like an unconventional quintet sound, which is immediately evident on “Opening.” How did you come across this sound, and did you have Jerome Sabbagh and Roman Filiu in mind when composing Partenika?
Marta Sánchez: I don’t think it’s really that unconventional, there are other examples of this. But, I wanted to do something with two lines, or three lines with piano, and I wanted this kind of warm sound from saxophone instead of trumpet. I did have Jerome and Roman in mind from the start. I knew Roman from Madrid, where I’m from, and we came here at the same time. I wanted to do something with him. So I wrote all the music thinking of him, of them. This music is totally personalized to the two of them.
TJG: You have a quintet in New York, as well as a sextet with Camila Meza. How does your method of composition change for each of your different ensembles?
MS: I only write for specific instrumentation, so it’s different in the sense that I work towards sounds on different instruments; vibes, guitar, alto saxophone, and so on. I also have to write lyrics for one group and not the other, so it’s totally a different concept when I have words, you know? The two projects are different, even if the music probably has similarities. But actually, I think on what tonality I want, how many instruments I have, how voices might be exchanged. There aren’t that many chords, I think more in terms of lines that go together. It’s not about people playing chords and a melody, a melody and harmony. It’s many melodies in many layers, all happening at the same time. Each instrument has its own part, each has a personalized line.
TJG: The groove and the melody on “Partenika” are both so sparse, but they fit together beautifully. Did you write one line first, or did the composition come together more spontaneously?
MS: As far as I remember, the bass line came first, but then very quickly the saxophone came together. I compose lines together, one with the other. I always compose at the piano. I think in terms of sound, or groove, or some kind of atmosphere I want to create. When I have a groove, maybe I’ll imagine a melody I want to create over that, or I’ll even think of some kind of tonality between the saxophones. Mostly I sit down at the piano, and whatever ideas I have in my mind, I try them and go through them. I love composing. I try a lot of things on the piano, even if I may have a clear idea of what I want before I even write a note. If the idea isn’t working, normally I’ll stop and just come back another day.