Drummer Antonio Sánchez Is One Bad Hombre
While jazz may not be the dominant cultural force it once was in the early 20th century, it’s legacy and influence have not truly left. In fact, it could be argued that it is currently expanding. Whether it be in the form of critically acclaimed (yes suspectly white washed) Hollywood films courtesy of Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” and “Whiplash”, elements popping up in artists from Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar, or the new guard of artists like Kamasi Washington, the form is still very much in the public eye. And although one may admit that jazz is one of the few genuinely American styles of music, it is by no means exclusive to the US. Latinxs have a rich tradition in jazz as well, with artists like Mario Bauzá and percussionist Tito Puente who added Latin flair to the contemporary jazz of their day. The new generation of Latinx jazz is being led by Mexican drummer Antonio Sánchez, who is challenging the genre with the new and fascinating directions he takes in his latest record titled Bad Hombre.
Sánchez was born and raised in Mexico City and began playing the drums at a young age. In his 20s he moved to the US to study jazz at Berklee College of Music. Upon graduation, Sánchez slowly built his standing within the jazz community: joining and recording with the Pat Metheny Group, becoming a faculty member at NYU, and recording several live and studio albums. His big mainstream break, however, came when director Alejandro G. Iñárritu tapped him to score his award winning film Birdman. The percussive soundtrack earned Sánchez a Grammy along with a Golden Globe nomination. After the film’s release, Sánchez continued to perform and record traditional jazz albums, but in his spare time started to work on a completely new project, the fruits of which would become Bad Hombre. For those put off by the thought of listening to a jazz record, Bad Hombre is not your father’s Buddy Rich-type of drummer jazz album. The album may be better described as an experimental and electronic record, but there are still numerous jazz influences on the record.
The record opens with a corrido, a recording of Sánchez’s grandfather and famed actor, Ignacio López Tarso, before flowing into a bass groove and drum rhythm abruptly ended by a menacing modified voice bellowing, “We are the bad hombres and we are not getting out”. This flows into the title track with Sánchez playing over a simple bassline. However, as the song continues it slowly gets more and more frantic, with an ominous electronic sample fading in until the whole song explodes into a thunderous swirl of drums and synths. This is just one example of the many liberties Sánchez, who has said to NPR he is influenced by Aphex Twin, Bonobo, and Boards of Canada, takes on the album. Another song, “Nine Lives,” uses an electronic loop that sounds like it could have come from the artists just listed but brought to life with syncopated drums. The entire record is strewn with a wide range of sounds and genres including hip hop, drum and bass, ambient, rock, and glitch. However, what remains constant throughout the record is Sánchez’s impeccable drumming technique and the artistic vision through which he is creating.
Sánchez has made no secret that the album title is a clear reference to the remarks made by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. In the same NPR interview he said it would have been difficult to be quiet and not make a political record at this time, stressing his platform necessitates expressing his views. He later added, “I think it’s incredibly important for me, for other musicians, to not normalize the situation.”
Cover Image: Antonio Sánchez in Santiago, Chile with the Chick Corea Trio by Martín Borda licensed under CC By 3.0