The SAJB’s Koldo Munné Steps into the Jazz Spotlight

Koldo performing with the WDR big band in Germany, 2022.

The Sant Andreu Jazz band in Barcelona has, for the past 16 years, earned its stellar reputation not only as an educational project created by Joan Chamorro to teach young kids traditional jazz, but as a band that has produced an astonishing number of musicians who have attained a high degree of skill, creativity, and professionalism before reaching their twenties. It can even be argued that only the legendary big bands of the 1930s and ’40s — Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and others — produced more musicians who became revered for their individual talents.

And, it has become clear in just the past few years that Koldo Munné, alto saxophonist for the SAJB, has displayed the potential to make his mark as an outstanding jazz musician and vocalist. Having grown up in the band— as have dozens of members, past and present — he will turn 17 in November, is talented beyond his years, genial, talkative, and obviously dedicated to his art.

When he was 6, Koldo began taking saxophone lessons with Chamorro, who asked him to join the SAJB two years later.

Joan Chamorro introduces his latest saxophone student at this recital in 2013.

“I didn’t know about jazz before taking lessons with Joan. But he has this kind of ability to make kids really fall in love with jazz, and that’s exactly what happened. I started taking saxophone lessons, and we would begin by playing children’s songs. But then we started playing more ‘jazzie’ songs, and I really fell in love with that music.”

(l. to r.) Alba Esteban, Rita Payes, Alba Armengou, Koldo, Max Tato in 2014.

He followed Chamorro’s proven method of listening and transcribing the instrumental solos of the greats as a way of learning their musical language, eventually leading to creating original phrases and passages as well.

“For the first two years, it was learning older solos, then, gradually — it happens a little at a time — you’d transcribe Charlie Parker, unconsciously adding all of the language in your head. I don’t think a kid could like this music with theory, but by listening, having fun, with no music sheets.”

With SAJB violinist/saxophonist Elia Bastida in 2015 (photo by their bandmate, Joana Casanova).

Since this educational journey includes listening to a great amount of recordings from bands (both big and small), singers, and a variety of musical styles stretching back many decades, favorites inevitably rise to the top of each young musician’s list. For Koldo, “I really enjoy listening to all styles of music. I really love listening to Soul music, like Aretha Franklin or Nina Simone. And also I really love some alto sax players like Johnny Hodges and Art Pepper. If I had to choose a Big Band, It would definitely be Count Basie’s big band. I really enjoy playing swing, but I actually also enjoy playing more modern jazz music or even Brazilian music, which I fell in love with in this year’s Jazzing. I was not a big fan of bossa nova before Jazzing, but with all the singers rehearsing…now I’m in love with it.”

“I really love the video of a song called ‘Bunny,’ where I play the alto sax with Alba Esteban.” The guest saxophonist is Perico Sambeat.

He is also notable for being one of the few male singers in the SAJB’s history. The band has produced a long list of fabulous female vocalists who have continued with great success, but for the guys, only Edu Ferrer and Joan Marti — and now Koldo — have taken to the center stage mic for singing in addition to playing. For some time, Chamorro’s plan for the band’s La Magia de la Veu (The Magic of the Voice) ensemble had been to add male voices for its current edition, its third since 2014.

So, did Koldo really become a singer voluntarily?

“I don’t know if Joan Chamorro knows this, but I’ve always wanted to sing, all my life. I don’t feel ‘forced’ to sing!” But he did need to wait until his voice changed to pursue singing in the band. One of his stand-out numbers these days is Nina Simone’s “Go to Hell.”

In May of 2022, Koldo, Alba Esteban, Gerard Penaranda, and Elsa Armengou performed as special guests of the WDR big band in Germany. It was a memorable showcase for the four SAJB performers who don’t often have opportunites to shine at center stage.

The SAJB’s 9th annual Jazzing Fest in September was indeed devoted to Brazilian music, and included several performing guests from Brazil, as well as Russian-born saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky, who adapted well to this year’s theme. Koldo had the opportunity to share the stage for solos and duets with Baevsky; he had done so with other respected professionals throughout his years with the band, such as Scott Hamilton and Perico Sambeat.

With Dmitry Baevsky at Jazzing.

“For me, it was a challenge to play with Dimitry because he is such a great sax player, and the moment I was playing with him I was trying to improve myself. It’s always amazing to play with all these great musicians — like Scott, Perico — because it makes you feel so motivated to have the opportunity to play with them. And it’s that motivation that makes you want to improve.”

(l. to r.) Joan Marti, Joan Chamorro, Alba Armengou, Elia Bastida, Koldo, and Josep Traver embrace bossa nova, including Jobim’s “Agua de Beber” at Jazzing.

In addition, members of the current Magic of the Voice ensemble also took the stage at Jazzing, comprised of current and former SAJB musicians: Koldo (alto sax), Joan Marti (sax/flute/vocals), Elia Bastida (violin/sax/vocals), Alba Armengou (trumpet/vocals), Elsa Armengou (trumpet), Marcal Perramon (tenor sax), Max Tato(trombone), Alba Esteban(baritone sax/vocals), Marc Martin (piano), Arnau Julia (drums), and Chamorro himself (double bass).

They have traveled throughout Europe, and most recently visited Bangalore, India for the first time, by invitation to appear for a series of concerts at Windmills.

“La Magia de la Veu” performing at Windmills in Bangalore. (photo by Peter ter Haar).

“The time in Bangalore was excellent!” Koldo says. “It was really an amazing experience to go there, especially cause we also had time to do a little tourism, which was great. I think the concerts were fantastic, and I think there’s actually plenty of moments I will remember, especially the ones involving food!”

The ensemble taking in the sights of Bangalore during downtime between concerts.

Changes are coming soon to the SAJB; two highly valued veterans in the band, Alba Armengou and Alba Esteban, will leave upon the year-end concert in November, at which time Koldo and trumpeter Elsa Armengou will become the senior members (Elsa herself has only just turned 18, and Koldo’s younger brother Max also plays in the band’s trumpet section). He has also been preparing for Chamorro’s plan to assign him more baritone sax parts upon Alba E.’s departure — but not before performing a song with himself, Chamorro, and Alba all on baritones, representing three baritone sax generations within the band.

With Alba Esteban at Windmills in Bangalore.

“Yes, that’s true. I will start playing baritone sax more often when Alba leaves the band. Actually, in the concert we have in Palau de la Música in November, I will play a lot of songs with the baritone that we are already rehearsing. Joan told me about that three baritones song, but we haven’t really decided any song yet.”

The SAJB axophone section, 2022 (l. to r.): Andreu Romero, Alba Esteban, Pere Company, Lola Penaranda, Sander Theuns, Koldo Munné, Shantii Ming, and Elian Sabogal.

His musical education plans outside the SAJB include beginning at ESMUC (Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya). “It is basically the Catalonia music college, were you do the music superior degree. I’m still in high school, but I do want to go there next year.”

Since he’s just turning 17, he has several more years with the SAJB to continue refining his considerable talents, and is especially excited to begin work on the Joan Chamorro presenta Koldo Munné album. It is planned to include tracks such as “Imagination” and “Cherokee,” but also several of Koldo’s own compositions. “I’m really happy there will be some original songs that are a part of me,” he says.

All the more reason to continue following and enjoying Koldo’s musical progress for a long time to come.

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.

“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 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.