“Sophistication, but street”. It was an occurrence of the trombonist Alba Pujals, but it could be the watchword of The Changes, a collective of jazz musicians from Barcelona that in recent years has carved out a niche for itself in the city. The sophistication is in the music. The street, in self-management and in the conviction that this is local music and for everyone, not just for auditoriums and suitable only for highly connoisseurs. “We always say that where we like to play the most is in a bar, in a joint,” says saxophonist and clarinetist Lluc Casares, one of the six promoters of The Changes.
They coincided studying at the ESMUC in Barcelona. Then they disbanded to continue training in the United States, the Netherlands and Austria. In 2019, when they met again in Barcelona, they started the collective. “We wanted to contribute our grain of sand to the city and set up our own platform to break with intermediaries. Because, at least I was tired of dealing with certain conditions from the record companies,” explains saxophonist Irene Reig, another of the founders. “Having the freedom to do whatever you want,” says Casares, “but without getting our fingers caught because we simply can’t afford it. We don’t have any support and we can’t help artists who want to publish with us financially, we can only serve as a distribution platform.
The Changes works, yes, as a loudspeaker and quality label. They do not want to be pigeonholed into any aesthetic, but their school is modern jazz with North American roots, the “straight ahead”. Although if they get a proposal that escapes those coordinates and is liked by the majority -in The Changes everything is decided by vote-, they will make room for it on their label.
In four years they have already published almost 20 albums. the last one is ‘Ride’, an album by Lluc Casares with the Dutch guitarist Jesse Van Ruller as a guest star and which will be presented on Saturday at noon in the Plaza del Rector Homs in Terrassa, the new open-air stage of the 42nd Jazz Terrassa Festival. The next day, Oriol Vallès premieres a quartet album, ‘Cap clar’, suggestive and sophisticated, in a morning concert in the Parc Sant Jordi in the same city. The Nova Jazz Cava de Terrassa has been his home since he was very youngwhen Lluc, his brother Joan and Oriol Vallés, all sons of musicians, went up on stage to play alongside musicians who have been their references.
It has been more difficult, for now, to access large venues in Barcelona. Casares humorously recalls how in 2020, the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who was his teacher in New York, invited him to play a piece with his orchestra at the Palau de la Música, in a concert at the Barcelona jazz festival. And how two days after his cameo with Marsalis, the festival informed Casares that his proposal as his leader did not fit into the schedule.
Jazz in the house of punk rock
“There is a type of space, between the concert hall and the bar, that does not exist in Barcelona. And that is where this music would have a lot of room”Vallès says. They have successfully rehearsed it at La Deskomunal, a cooperative cultural space in the Sants neighborhood that opened its doors in 2020. And there, between punk and rock concerts and Latin music sessions, The Changes program a jazz cycle that attracts a varied and loyal audience.
“Young people come, our students, people from the neighborhood, of all ages. And something has been created that goes beyond the concert, people have fun,” says Casares. It was inaugurated by Irene Reig in 2021 with a concert that ended with the audience dancing to a score by Duke Ellington. On April 28, Reig closes the fourth edition of the cycle with another of his projects, The Bop Collective.