The Jazz House Story

Garry Berman
17 min readMar 6, 2024

There is a dwelling on a quiet street in the Sant Andreu district of Barcelona, whose simple appearance belies a very special history, and a musical life force within that has been gaining recognition and fame from jazz musicians, educators, and audiences around the world.

It is called The Jazz House.

While the name perhaps sounds like a downtown jazz club in the nearest city to you, The Jazz House is in fact home of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band — and part of the home of the creator and director of the SAJB, Joan Chamorro.

In case you’re not familiar with the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, its musicians’ ages range from about 11 years old (sometimes younger) to about 21 — and when they play, they sound as if they’re professionals with decades of experience performing swing, bebop, bossa nova, and other styles.

The story of how Chamorro created the band in 2006, and how he has been able to draw out fantastic musical talent from pre-teen and teenage kids, has been told many times. But the story of The Jazz House itself, and how it was created — as much by necessity as desire — is not as widely known as the many outstanding musical accomplishments of the SAJB in the past 18 years.

Firstly, it is basically a single room, roughly 20 feet long by 10 feet wide, in which the SAJB meets, rehearses, and records their CDs and videos available to jazz fans all over the world.

Chamorro has described what a visitor first sees when entering The Jazz House from the street outside: “The Jazz House, about 20 years ago, began to be occupied, even before it existed as such, by fairies, butterflies, giraffes, bright suns, moons that also shine, musicians who pass through it and leave their footprint of musicians who left us many years ago, among them the sun that shines in the entrance and plays his saxophone, all come from a distant country called SUEÑOS [‘dreams”],but who continue to impregnate with their music, every wall, every step, every corner, every body, every soul…”

In practical terms, however, Chamorro’s SAJB project needed a true home; a space where all of the band’s musical activities could take place.

How then, did The Jazz House come into existence? First, some background on the SAJB itself is in order:

The Sant Andreu Jazz Band’s story begins in 2006, when the project took shape as a modest, extra-curricular little band Chamorro created while teaching at the Escola Municipal de Musica de Sant Andreu.

The first home of the SAJB.

An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, he decided to create a band in order to teach the school’s students traditional American jazz — mostly Dixieland, at first. The only band members not attending the school at the time were a very young Alba Armengou, who was 7 years old at the time, together with her sister Elsa, who was 6 years old.

Over time, he also began to bring in other young musicians — who are now young adults — pursuing their respective careers, but who did not necessarily study at that school (Joan Codina, Joan Mar Sauqué, Victor Carrascosa, Marti Ibañez and Irene Reig, et. al).

Within a few years, Chamorro explains, “The project had grown a lot and, due to considerations by the school management, it was better that the project not be part of the school, so we had to leave and find another space.” However, he continued to be part of the teaching staff at the school for two more years on a part-time basis, while devoting more time to the band, “to make both activities compatible.”

Eventually, he decided it was necessary to make the SAJB project a full-time effort, and requested a leave of absence from the school, “which I still have,” he says, “after 9 years.”

But where could he hold rehearsals for the band, if not at the school? He turned to another music school in Sant Andreu where he was an educator.

“I had been a teacher at the Taller de Musics School of Barcelona, ​​whose superior facilities were in Sant Andreu, near the Municipal school, and near my house. The management of the Taller de Músics very kindly agreed to let us do the rehearsals and some of the recordings in their classrooms, without paying any cost, something for which I will always be grateful.”

Taller de Musics occupies the top floor of the Ignasi Iglésias-Can Fabra library, one of the structures renovated from the former Fabra i Coats textile factory. The other buildings now serve as a civic center, where the annual Jazzing Fest takes place.

In 2014, Chamorro and SAJB manager Blanca Gallo Yáñez created Jazzing Fest (or simply “Jazzing”) with the blessing and support of the Sant Andreu District. Jazzing is an annual, multi-day music festival featuring the SAJB and musical guests. “There were several attempts to get a venue for us, but it was not so easy, and we maintained rehearsals at the Workshop for several years.

“I already lived in Sant Andreu, on Virgili street. There, from time to time, I would do some rehearsals or classes [in my home], but never with the whole band…

“I lived in the house where my neighbor lives now, and from my bedroom window I saw the house where I live now. It faces the one I lived in. There lived an elderly woman who had become a widow and was selling her house because it was difficult for her to climb the stairs. She had the house very poorly maintained and destroyed, which is why she couldn’t bear to sell it for what she wanted… It was an exterior house, with only one neighbor (me) and it had possibilities to do something interesting in it, through work. And so she accepted my offer…The truth is that I bought it very cheap compared to what it is worth today…”

On February 3, 2015, Chamorro signed the purchase and sale contract for what would later become The Jazz House.

“In my head there was always the possibility of doing work at home, to be able to have a larger space and to be able to fit well and not be so cramped when we occasionally had a rehearsal for all the musicians. I also always had the dream of having a space that I could use whenever I wanted, even on weekends, if necessary. At first, we rehearsed there punctually. We continued using the classrooms that they so kindly left us at the Taller de Músics.

In the Taller de Musics rehearsal room, with guest trumpeter Joe Magnarelli.

He realized there was much work to be done for the space in order for it to become a fully functional rehearsal studio.

“And that’s how I made the decision and got fully into it. I had never had problems with the neighbors, a wonderful family who love music and who also knew my project.”

He even rehearsed a few times with “a big band as powerful as the Martin Leiton Big band, made up of some of the most recognized and active musicians on the city’s jazz scene. The repertoire was not exactly ballads. The sound was consistent and the walls of the house were no stranger to it.”

But still, everything seemed to be under control.

“I did the work to expand the room thinking that there would be no sound problems, although I did invest a little in soundproofing, but not in a professional way.”

At the time of the Jazz House becoming the main site for rehearsals, classes, and recordings, “the musical activity was continuous,” he says, conceding that such activity, sometimes stretching late into the evening, was beginning to wear on the neighbors.

Chamorro shifted his efforts into high gear. “And that was why I made a decision again, this time definitive and one that I am very, very happy with. I considered doing total soundproofing, taking the opportunity to prepare the room as a recording studio, conditioning it so that the sound would neither leave nor enter the room. I contacted again the same company that had soundproofed other spaces for personal use that I had had in different houses. (I was always very concerned that my musical activity did not interfere or be annoying to the neighbors I had at all times) The company was Audio Acústica and the result was unbeatable. I could teach classes, rehearse whenever I wanted. I could record, since I had conditioned it for it, with all the material under the floating floor, the connectors on the wall and everything connected to the entrance room, where our recording technician, David Casamitjana, would be located. most cases.

The band at rehearsal in the newly-refurbished room — April, 2015.

“The acid test was to do a rehearsal that there was no way to do during the day, due to the musicians’ time constraints. Just to be extra certain, he scheduled a late-night session with the Andrea Motis quintet. We had an important concert and the only way the 5 of us could meet was to do it after 11 at night.

“The rehearsal began and there we had Andrea’s trumpet, with her amplified voice, the Yamaha C3 piano with Ignasi Terraza’s playing, Josep Traver’s amplified guitar, my double bass, of course, unamplified, and Esteve Pi’s drums. This last one, along with Andrea’s trumpet, is what worried me the most.”

During the rehearsal, he kept checking his phone for messages on WhatsApp by complaining neighbors, expecting the worst. Alas, there were no such messages.

“Well, nothing happened,” he reports. “No WhatsApp.” They finished at 2:00 in the morning, a time of night when Virgili Street — quiet even at midday — would be quiet “when you can even hear the lighting of a match.” He had difficulty believing it, guessing that perhaps the neighbors might have been away that night.

“But no, the next day I saw them, and I asked them. They were home and didn’t hear a peep from the rehearsal, much to his relief. I’m still in disbelief. Even when I think about it, I can’t believe it. But yes, it is like that.

Wall display in October of 2015 of the album covers for the ‘presenta’ CDs, and posters for the first two Jazzing Fests.

“Many times I stay studying the baritone sax well into the night. And I don’t suffer anymore. I know that I don’t bother, that I can play as loud as I want and for as long as I want, after 40 years of changing houses, always with the problem of not bothering anyone.”

His admirable consideration for his neighbors in each of his homes of the past several decades, traces back to when he was still a teen, practicing at home. “Imagining that one of the things I can least tolerate is bothering anyone, however I feel…That room in my parents’ house was far away when, at 18 years old, I started playing the saxophone. I remember that I changed rooms to spread the inconvenience among my neighbors, all and that they never complained, but I knew that yes, it could be annoying.”

One day, however, an upstairs neighbor, expecting a baby, made a request. “The upstairs neighbor told me that yes, ‘until I give birth, you can go study on the other side of the house, please.’ ”

His father soundproofed the room “in a totally unprofessional way, with fiberglass on the walls. Making dampers for the window and the door of the room. Nothing on the ceiling, nothing on the floor …I mean…it wouldn’t be of much use, but it seemed like it would help me.

“Then I moved houses (and in all of them I counted on my father to set up my study room).”

The great American tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm at The Jazz House in November, 2015.

Having made great improvements to The Jazz House, “my dream (one of them) had come true. I became very happy, in case I wasn’t already, and so did my neighbors.”

May, 2018 — Prior to the total soundproofing of the space, when, as Chamorro describes, the layout and configuration were the opposite of the current one. “The piano is wall-mounted, which is the one I have in the entrance room. Now we have a Yamaha C3, with which we recorded all the videos for THE JAZZ HOUSE SESSION series.”

But Chamorro had plans for the space even before perfecting its soundproof qualities; he wanted to create a series of recordings to be called “The Jazz House Sessions” to accompany other recordings made by the band in venues such as the famous Jamboree Club. To date, there have been about 150 videos of the band, its smaller combo groups, and guest artists recording in The Jazz House for assorted SAJB CD releases.

Adding the poster for the 5th Jazzing Fest in 2018.

“All the videos have at the beginning a window where you can see a sign (designed by a great friend, Beatriz Silva) with the name THE JAZZ HOUSE and also, a retouched photo of the upper part of the door, where we see a composition of a cardboard sun, smiling and playing a curved soprano saxophone, next to two butterflies and a cornet. (All these things are symbols with a very strong emotional past that inspires me every time I walk through the door.)”

The first Jazz House Sessions video recording in November, 2018, featuring Alba Armengou and Scott Hamilton on “Shiny Stockings” for the album “Joan Chamorro presenta Alba Armengou.”

Also in 2018, a session with the legendary tenor sax player Scott Hamilton included vocal songs such as “Meditaçao” and the instrumentals “Everything Happens to me” and “Ill Wind” from the Carla Motis presentation CD, and a version of “Donna Lee,” with a special arrangement for SAJB double bassist Ton Felices, for a small group in which Hamilton also participated. Hamilton also recorded some songs with violinist Elia Bastida for her album The Magic Sound of the Violin.

With Benjamin Gonzalez, from AudioAcústica, after the rehearsal room-recording studio of the renovated Jazz house was completed. “The last three studios, including the one in the photo, have been designed and carried out by Benjamin Gonzalez.”

This newer, further improved version of The Jazz House had its debut on May 3, 2019, with several band members recording over a dozen songs, some for the Presenta CDs for Jan Domenech and Joana Casanova, and for Jazzing 10.

Before COVID wreaked its havoc, the entire SAJB big band was able to record at the end of 2019, such as the tunes with Alba Armengou for her Presenta CD, and “How Insensatez” with Èlia Bastida. Some sessions included New York trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, who played on the selections “Star Eyes,” “Dexterity,” Anthropology,” “Donna Lee,” and “Walkin’ Shoes” — all to be found on the Jazzing 10 CD.

Sessions at The Jazz House during 2019 and 2020 yielded the Presenta albums for (as mentioned) Joana Casanova and Jan Domenech, as well as for Joan Marti and Marçal Perramon. Some songs from these sessions did not end up on these albums, as Chamorro preferred to spread them out by including them into some Jazzing CDs.

The SAJB big band manages to squeeze in and rehearse together — May, 2019.

The room also became home to Chamorro’s impressive album collection, many trinkets, mementos, posters, and other items related to his experiences with music and the SAJB, not least of which is a collection of paintings by Enric Bastida (Elia’s father) of history’s great jazz legends, and of more contemporary SAJB collaborators.

“For as long as I have painted a jazz musician,” Bastida says, “I have enjoyed reconstructing the essence of that musician, reliving his era and his achievements and feeling in every brushstroke the musical sensibility, his charisma…

“For some years now, the Jazz House has been erected as a temple of meticulous work, of musical companionship, of endless rehearsals, of wonderful recordings that have given rise to great pieces. When Joan began to fill some of the walls of his endearing Jazz House, it has been a source of pride for me since day one.

From September, 2021: “THANKS TO ALL FOR THE CONGRATULATIONS on my birthday. very happy for all the shows of love and also for this wonderful gift: A picture of my great friend Scott Robinson, painted by Enric Bastida Paintings.” Portraits of Scott Hamilton and Sidney Bechet already adorn the walls.

“No other wall can have on a daily basis the sonority, the diversity of notes of all those legends, past and present, who have made and make jazz a channel of communication and transmission.

“I know what it will mean for every musician trained at the Jazz House, in the future, when they look back and remember the rehearsal spaces, the color of the walls, the musical demand, the shared creativity and the laughter lived. To have had the privilege of covering some corners is a very pleasant feeling for me and I thank Joan deeply.”

The room has served other functions as well. In March of 2020, through Erasmus — a European youth educational program for culture and sports — Chamorro hosted twenty teachers from Iceland for three days, to immerse them in the SAJB and how he has been teaching his students to learn and play jazz classics.

He and the group had several discussions for a total of about 20 hours, “talking about pedagogy, methodology, philosophy, listening to our music and watching, through videos, the evolution of young musicians (some of them with more than 10 years in the orchestra), listening and playing direct to some of them and to understand how, without any kind of institutional help, we are about to complete 15 years of life, with a production of more than 40 CD’s related to the project, the film A Film About Kids and Music, hundreds of concerts inside and outside the country.”

Getting into the details with fellow music educators from Iceland.

The COVID pandemic of 2020-’21 saw an increase of Jazz House recordings, as most Barcelona venues had to remain closed for the duration. “There weren’t many alternatives,” Chamorro says. “However, the number of musicians who could be part of the recordings was limited to the norm of the time.” Therefore, he would need to rehearse the sax, trombone, and trumpet sections separately.

On September 6 and 7, 2021, just after the Jazzing Festival, Scott Hamilton returned to The Jazz House for a session was intended to record songs for Alba Esteban’s Presenta CD (tenderly, a handful of stars, alone together, “Lullaby of Birdland,” “ Groovin High,” and “Prince Albert.”

Chamorro also subtitled Volumes 2 and 3 of Jazzing 11 “small groups at the Jazz House”; the groups ranged in size from the trio or quartet “to the 12 of us who recorded Jobim’s ‘Agua de Beber’ for Joan Marti’s CD.”

Later that September, after the unintended break due to the pandemic, the Èlia Bastida meets Scott Hamilton album was finally completed.

Chamorro decided to strike while the iron was hot. “I took the opportunity to record some classic songs by two tenors, together with Marçal Perramon and Joan Marti, with Scott (due to the pandemic, in 2021 he could not come to the recording of both presentation CDs, so it was a way to correct what that circumstances had not allowed us to do).

“The second, taking advantage of the fact that they were coming on tour, we had the presence of Ted Nash (first alto of the sax section of Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center), Steve Cardenas (guitar) and Ben Alison (double bass), very important musicians in the jazz music scene from New York and therefore, from the world.

“We recorded for the presentation CD of Alba Esteban and the songs were ‘Alone Together’ (now arranged for winds) ‘Darn that Dream,’ ‘Along Came Betty,’ ‘For Sentimental Reasons’ and ‘Upper Manhattan Medical Group.’”

More recent recording sessions have included those for Joan Chamorro presenta Koldo Munné, and later in 2024, it will be the SAJB lead trumpeter Elsa Armengou’s turn to begin recording her own Presenta album.

“And that is the idea,” Chamorro says, “to continue doing sessions at the Jazz House. Sometimes they will be recorded, sometimes not.”

SAJB musicians gather outside The Jazz House awaiting entrance for a rehearsal in September, 2022.

He once expressed what The Jazz House symbolizes to him, in words as poetic as the music he plays:

“THE JAZZ HOUSE is a place to dream and to turn dreams into reality. Dreams loaded with wonderful sounds, with melodies that we learn by listening and singing.

THE JAZZ HOUSE is a place to sing with your voice, to sing with your instrument, which is your voice. To generate hopes, to share them, to laugh, to dance… to dream and…we return to the beginning.

THE JAZZ HOUSE is a magical place where what matters is the present, the path. Where there are no more goals than enjoying day to day, and through that move forward, ADVANCE TOWARDS TODAY, because if we are happy doing what we do today, we will always be happy.

The best tool is the smile, which together with patience, understanding, enthusiasm, love, the desire to continue learning and a few other ingredients, make the path we are on lighter, more pleasant, more exciting, more fruitful… THE JAZZ HOUSE, another dream turned into reality….

The JAZZ HOUSE is a special, very special place.”

Until next time…

You can read my 100+ articles at the “Garry’s Blog” page on my website, www.GarryBerman.com. which also includes synopses and reviews of my books. You can order them via the links to Amazon.com.

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You can click on my articles about the Sant Andreu Jazz Band at the links below:

“Joana Casanova Finds Her New Musical Direction” | by Garry Berman | Jan, 2024 | Medium

“Andrea Motis: Europe’s Jazz Queen” | by Garry Berman | Jan, 2024 | Medium

Bossa Nova Returns to Barcelona” | by Garry Berman | Medium| by Garry Berman | Medium

“A Perfect Arrangement: Joan Monné and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band” | by Garry Berman | Dec, 2023 | Medium

“Carla Motis: A Quiet Force on Jazz Guitar” | by Garry Berman | Sep, 2023 | Medium

“Memories of my Visit to Jazzing Fest, 2023” | by Garry Berman | Sep, 2023 | Medium

“Meet Asier Vázquez, The SAJB’s Eager New Guitarist” | by Garry Berman | Medium

“Koldo Munné’s Musical Journey” | by Garry Berman | Jun, 2023 | Medium

“Claudia Rostey’s Rising Star” | 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

The Sant Andreu Jazz Band is always grateful for donations large and small to help the project continue to record and release new albums, perform live concerts, and maintain a successful project and all that entails. Please see this link regarding the current GoFundMe campaign:

Fundraiser for Association Sant Andreu Jazz Band by Friends of SAJB Amis du SAJB : Sant Andreu Jazz Band JAZZING 14 (gofundme.com)

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.