Meet Asier Vázquez, The SAJB’s Eager New Guitarist

Garry Berman
8 min readJul 8, 2023
Asier at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati (photo by Tom Porter).

Barcelona’s Sant Andreu Jazz Band is nothing if not constantly evolving, as it welcomes new young musicians while bidding farewell to those leaving as regular members to pursue their own musical careers. It can be a challenge for SAJB enthusiasts to become familiar with the musicians who don’t often step into the spotlight onstage, or sing, or take many solos. But whoever makes the effort to know 17-year-old Asier Vázquez, who joined as guitarist earlier in 2023, will be impressed with his talent, dedication, and humble attitude.

Asier lives about 20 minutes from the Sant Andreu neighborhood of Barcelona. His jazz education was already underway when he began to talk with Joan Chamorro about joining the SAJB. “This last year, since July, 2022, I’ve been getting more into jazz, because I also have a double bass teacher, and I think he’s the one who showed me jazz, and what it is.”

At the same time, he was also attending summer band camp, which included “classes with your own instrument, and combos, and every day there’s a jam session with everyone, and you can go and play. I think that’s the best part of it, ’cause you meet new people and play with people you aren’t used to, and maybe discover songs and standards…”

There, he met Mateu Teixidó, the new double bass player with the SAJB, joining Jordi Herrera. It sparked an interest in Azier to try for the band, too. And it helped that he also met SAJB members Gerard and Lola Penaranda, Sander Theuns, and new drummer Didac Moya at the camp. He met with Mateu again at the music school; shortly afterward Mateu’s mother Lorena gave Asier Joan Chamorro’s contact information. He contacted Chamorro, and, “we started talking, he told me what he wanted in a guitarist, and he asked me to send him some videos of my playing.”

Joan Chamorro welcomes Asier to the SAJB in March, 2023.

Once he was welcomed into the fold as a regular member, his first concert with band was on April 10 at Plaza de Reial. “I’m really happy with this,” he says of his new position in the band. “It’s been a whole new level, a whole new experience.” At 17, he joined the band when many of his fellow musicians did so at a much younger age (although some members through the years, including Elia Bastida, joined the band at 17 as well). “I wish I could have started with the band that young,” he says of the younger members, “It would have been very nice. People like Marti Costalogo, Neils Theuns, Bernat Benevente— they’re very young, and very good for their age.”

Upon becoming an SAJB regular, Asier also found himself in the unenviable position of replacing the band’s beloved guitarist Carla Motis, who joined the SAJB in 2008 at age 11, and served as the band’s only guitarist before leaving in 2020. The petite and quiet Carla was a rock-steady part of both SAJB big band and its smaller combos — leaving Asier with, you could say, small shoes to fill.

Carla Motis.

Was it difficult for him coming into the band replacing Carla? His appealing modesty comes through in his comments: “I had my moments of thinking, okay, I’m the next guitarist after Carla Motis, so I was very concerned for a long time. I’m not as good as Carla, but I also had the thought that I don’t have to be as good as Carla at this point, right now. I have time to develop, to improve.”

Upon joining the SAJB, he also became part of the SAJB Dixieland Band, Joan Chamorro’s way of returning to the kind of music the band played in its earliest days, before the mere handful of young musicians gradually bloomed into a full-size big band.

The Sant Andreu Dixieland Band.

Asier doesn’t have a strong preference between playing in the big band or Dixieland band.

“Dixie is a little more free,” he says, “I get to do more stuff, but also in the big band there are some nice arrangements for guitar that maybe I wouldn’t get in Dixie, because it’s not a good fit.”

Being as self-motivated as he is, he decided to post a video of himself on Instagram each day in July, playing a different standard every day. “I want to play more standards, because I don’t have as big a repertoire as some of my mates. And I thought this would be a nice idea to encourage myself to do it every day, non-stop, and just — every day another standard, to widen my repertoire. The one I posted on July 1, ‘Equinox,’ [John Coltrane], I didn’t know that one. And that’s the idea…”

Asier Vázquez (@asier.vm_1_2) | Instagram

The legendary jazz guitarists he uses for inspiration and education are the greats you might well expect him to emulate. “I’d say Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Joe Pass — I love Joe Pass, how he played.”

As always, Chamorro has the band learning new songs and arrangements perpetually, and this summer is no different. “We’re playing a new arrangement that I love,” Asier reports, “the song ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps’. I love it. We’re also playing Basie, widening the range of what we do. We’re playing a little bit of everything and that’s the best part. Like a song called ‘Sway,’ it’s like a cha-cha-cha, an arrangement by Joan Monne, that’s very nice.”

The band will be playing songs at concerts during the summer with an eye on their inclusion for Jazzing Fest in September, “so we’ll be ready with them for Jazzing,” he says.

“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to get into the SAJB. I liked how it sounded, and its’ a very nice opportunity to improve. Right now, I can do comping [playing rhythm guitar behind the soloists] that’s the easy part, but when I have to improvise or solo, that’s difficult. But like the one-standard-a-day thing, it’s encouraging me to practice more, and improve. The nice thing about the way Joan teaches — people learn by ear, because if you don’t learn by ear, you will not learn.”

Playing with the SAJB Dixieland Band on International Jazz Day, April 30, 2023.

“Being here has made me change my practice habits so much. Now I feel like, I have to have this perfect, because if it’s not…” he shakes his head with a smile, not wanting to displease Chamorro. By the same token, he’s also not afraid of “messing up” on occasion. “If you’re a surgeon doing a heart operation and you mess up, that’s a big mess up. I’m not a surgeon, but I can mess up. That’s why I have this kind of freedom — I’m not killing anyone!

“I do mostly comping now because I don’t have a lot of solos transcribed and memorized, but there’s this nice thing in comping because you can pay attention to a lot of small things happening, you can listen more…and everything has its own pros and cons.”

He also likes how Chamorro tries to give each musician a chance in the spotlight. “Like with the drummers, there’s four drummers in the SAJB right now. So it’s like, ‘Neils, you play for four songs, Didac you play three…He tries to keep it very equal, so everyone has their moments.” He agrees that the band having more than one bassist and drummer these days makes it a little more difficult for fans to learn much about each one, while it does give more of the young musicians a chance to be active in the band.

“The nice thing for me is that I’m the only guitarist — that’s easy to learn!”

Asier Vázquez (@asier.vm_1_2) • Instagram photos and videos

He considers the idea that perhaps not everyone in the band realizes the SAJB’s increasing fame around the world, thanks to YouTube, Facebook, and other social media.

“Right now, I’m starting to realize it,” he says, “I’m not quite sure how much, but it’s very nice. It’s cool.”

Until next time…

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Read my previous articles related to the Sant Andreu Jazz Band at the links below, or at the “Garry’s Blog” page on the website www.GarryBerman.com, and feel free to visit or join the Facebook group Friends of Sant Andreu Jazz Band (of which I am co-founder and administrator).

“Koldo Munné’s Musical Journey.” This has been a busy but satisfying… | by Garry Berman | Jun, 2023 | Medium

“Claudia Rostey’s Rising Star”. It’s always satisfying to see creative… | by Garry Berman | Jun, 2023 | Medium

“A Film About Kids and Music: Ten Years Later” https://medium.com/@garryberman/a-film-about-kids-and-music-ten-years-later-50d5bf96f53b

“Marching to a Different Bassist: The Music of Magali Datzira” | by Garry Berman | Medium

“Kindred Spirits: How Joan Chamorro and Isidore Rudnick Teach Jazz to Kids” https://medium.com/@garryberman/kindred-spirits-how-joan-chamorro-and-isidore-rudnick-teach-jazz-to-kids-2d0cb80bed77

“The Compelling Music of Elia Bastida and Carolina Alabau” https://medium.com/@garryberman/the-compelling-music-of-%C3%A8lia-bastida-and-carolina-alabau-65da74f07804

“The SAJB’s Koldo Munne Steps into the Jazz Spotlight” https://garryberman.medium.com/the-sajbs-koldo-munn%C3%A9-steps-into-the-jazz-spotlight-238b3231626f

“A Tale of Two Albas” https://garryberman.medium.com/a-tale-of-two-albas-904849a5e697

“How a Kids Band in Barcelona Rekindled My Love of Jazz” https://garryberman.medium.com/how-a-kids-band-in-barcelona-rekindled-my-love-of-jazz-a20ea8873670

“Jan Domenech’s New Chapter as a Jazz Musician” https://garryberman.medium.com/jan-domenechs-new-chapter-as-a-jazz-musician-e1f0da8b19b9

“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 and DVDs are available at: https://jazztojazz.com, eBay, and Amazon.com.

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Garry Berman

Pop Culture historian, Freelance Writer, Author, specializing in American comedy history in films, radio, and TV. Beatles and jazz enthusiast, animal lover.