The Sant Andreu Jazz Band has famously produced many young musicians who began to attract attention and praise for their skills and understanding of jazz while still in their teens, and even younger. In addition to the band’s “Jazzing” cd releases, director Joan Chamorro has also recorded debut cds for many of the featured musicians, for the ongoing “Joan Chamorro presenta…” series. Most of these are recorded and released shortly before the musician takes leave as a regular member of the SAJB and embarks on a new career with a firm foundation in classic jazz — and a complete album in hand — to serve as a running start when setting out as a professional musician.
Jan Domenech was one of these SAJB members, whose often intense presence at the piano provided invaluable support and countless musical highlights with the band, and who is now about to debut his first post-SAJB disc, with the help of some of his former bandmates.
He joined the Escola Municipal de Musica in Barcelona in 2010 at the age of 13, where he began learning to play in a combo — and where Joan Chamorro was a teacher. “After some weeks, I’m not sure when, before a combo lesson, I went to warm up a little bit playing ‘Watermelon Man’ by Herbie Hancock.” At the time, he had yet to be taught how to improvise, so as he worked his way through ‘Watermelon Man,’ he was “discovering more than practicing or playing.”
“Suddenly, Joan came into the classroom and listened a bit, and told me that he liked my ‘swing’. After some weeks I entered the junior section of the SAJB ‘Jove Band de Sant Andreu’ [also known as the ‘Young Cats’].” He spent two years in the junior group before becoming a full-fledged member of the SAJB. “Nevertheless, in that time I played sporadically with the SAJB, before going into the band. I knew almost nothing about jazz. I just had two jazz cds, one of Ella Fitzgerald with Louis Armstrong and another of Tete Montoliu.”
But after watching two concerts of the SAJB, he says, “I knew that I liked jazz.”
He and fellow SAJB pianist Marc Martin “grew up together, as if he were my older brother.” Placing the other SAJB pianists in order might require a score card: “The last years of Marc being main pianist, Marc Ferrer came in as third pianist, and Miranda Fernandez.
When Marc Martin left, I became the main pianist, but Marc Ferrer and Miranda stayed. When they left, I was [the sole] pianist for some years, then came Simon Palazi, and I left — and returned again. Then came Anna Ndiaye.” He adds that everyone in the band has become a good friend, especially those closer to his own age.
Speaking to the question of how he sees the piano’s role in a big band — among so many trumpets, saxophones, and trombones — Jan explains, “Playing piano in an ensemble is not much more different from another instrument. We are small cogs in a machine such a locomotive. Everyone has the same importance. But it’s true that unlike playing in a small group, in big bands the piano player has to follow more the partiture [a full musical score showing each part on a separate line or staff] and sometimes improvises less at the time of comping.”
He doesn’t have a strong preference between playing in a big band or a with smaller group, where the piano can be more prominent. “I like both,” he says, “every formation has something special. But it’s true that sometimes I prefer to play in a trio, duo or solo format.”
It wouldn’t be right to discuss piano in the SAJB without acknowledging the brilliant Ignasi Terraza, and his work with the band, its smaller side groups, and with Andrea’s quintet for a decade. His talent has had a major influence on Jan. “I have learned a lot [from him]. Not just receiving lessons from him, but listening to him a lot and going to his concerts. The knowledge I have learned from him is a very important part of my playing, although, nowadays, I’m searching different ways of expressing myself.”
Leaving the SAJB in 2021 created an opportunity not just for Jan to step further out on his own in the jazz world, but also for younger pianists to prepare for their future with the band — Anna Ndiaye and Pau Garcia i Noguera. “Anna was my student during last year, before I went to live to Netherlands,” Jan says. “She is a very talented pianist and a charming girl. She must believe in herself and work a lot because she can become a great pianist. I have coincided less with Pau, but he also will be a good musician” (Pianist/arranger Joan Monne has been providing support on piano for SAJB-related recordings as Anna and Pau continue their rehearsals for full-fledged participation in the band).
Jan is now studying in the Netherlands at the Royal Conservatory, where he is working towards his Masters Degree in Jazz Performance, as well as studying classical music. And, he has continued to perform on occasion with several of his fellow SAJB alumni.
“Although I left in 2021, I continued playing with the band two years as a guest. Besides, I have continued playing with some of them, like Alba and Joana in a duo format, and Marçal Perramon, Víctor Carrascosa, Andrea Motis, and Joan Martí, in my new project.”
The project is a new album, The Magical Forest Tour, consisting entirely of his original compositions, and featuring Perramon and Carrascosa, as well as drummer Enric Fuster, and bassist Juan Pastor. The quintet has scheduled their debut concert for the album at the Jamboree on April 2, with Joan Marti and Andrea as special guests for the performance. The cd will be released soon on the Fresh Sound New Talent label.
Like so many SAJB musicians before him, Jan Domenech is ready to establish himself still further as a creative force in the jazz world.
Until next time…
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Read my previous articles about the Sant Andreu Jazz Band at the links below, and at the “Garry’s Blog” page on my website, www.GarryBerman.com.
“Joan Chamorro and the SAJB: Past, Present, and Future” https://medium.com/@garryberman/joan-chamorro-and-the-sajb-past-present-and-future-573eedcbff76
“Josep Traver: Guitarist of All Trades” https://garryberman.medium.com/josep-traver-guitarist-of-all-trades-608296f9d00a
“When American Jazz Pros Meet Spanish Jazz Kids” https://garryberman.medium.com/when-american-jazz-pros-meet-spanish-jazz-kids-25c7f5023571
“Claudia Rostey: The Life of an 18-year-old Bacelona Jazz Trombonist” https://garryberman.medium.com/claudia-rostey-the-life-of-an-18-year-old-barcelona-jazz-trombonist-d13b82c770a3
“The Magic of the Voice: The Singers of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band” https://garryberman.medium.com/the-magic-of-the-voice-the-singers-of-the-sant-andreu-jazz-band-208dfb629221
“Jobim is Alive and Well in Barcelona” https://garryberman.medium.com/jobim-is-alive-and-well-in-barcelona-d384b40d8c2e
“Did Someone Say Anastasia Ivanova?” https://garryberman.medium.com/did-someone-say-anastasia-ivanova-dd6f67277c64
“Struck by (musical) Lightning” https://garryberman.medium.com/struck-by-musical-lightning-6583ecb0de13
Sant Andreu Jazz Band CDs are available at: https://jazztojazz.com/ , eBay, and Amazon.com.