INTERVIEW: Gil Gutiérrez debuts at NYC’s Jazz Standard

Gil Gutiérrez will play the Jazz Standard in New York City. Photo courtesy of Margaret Ellis Photography.

Gil Gutiérrez, a skilled guitar playing from Mexico, will bring his unique interpretation of jazz, flamenco and son cubano to New York City’s Jazz Standard for the first time Wednesday, May 24. He plays two sets that night with a band that consists of violinist Robert Stern and bassist David Rodriguez.

Gutiérrez grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is now based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He learned to play a few instruments at a young age, but once he transitioned to the guitar, he was set musically and artistically.

He was discovered playing around San Miguel de Allende by the great Doc Severinsen, who led the NBC Orchestra on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. The two began working together, and Gutiérrez’ star began to rise. The pairing actually played New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 2011 with the New York Pops. In addition to composing his own work, Gutiérrez has scored several films, including El Cochero and El Alcazar de Chapultepec.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox spoke with Gutiérrez about his career and the upcoming concerts at the Jazz Standard. Here’s what he had to say:

On his unique style of music …

“What we do is we play a mix between flamenco, jazz, classical guitar, Ennio Morricone, all these kinds of things.”

On his musical upbringing …

“Since I was 10 years old, I started playing the cello, and then I moved to piano. And I finished when I was 14 with the guitar. … I have to make my living, so when I was 16-1/2, 17 I started working at the clubs. … It was very difficult to make a living at that time because I’m from Oaxaca [in] Mexico, but I had to move to Mexico City to make my living.”

On his early years of composing …

“Well, I always liked to compose music because I like a lot of movie soundtracks music, and that was my passion. I never knew that I was going to be a professional player, but that was the passion that I feel about music and composing.”

On playing live vs. recording …

“I like both but mostly playing live music because you connect directly with the people, and it’s a magic moment. … [For a band,] it’s a lot of things that you have to have in common, so it will make sense what you’re trying to express. And everybody has to be on the same page and the same channel. It’s all about the sound of the instruments and the pure intensity of the music with a lot of heart.”

On meeting Doc Severinsen …

“I met Doc Severinsen in 2006 in San Miguel de Allende where I live. That’s my hometown now. … [He was]  down there in Mexico with his wife, and he saw me play guitar with a band in San Miguel de Allende. And he approached me, and he started talking to me. And I didn’t who Doc Severinsen was, and I spent half an hour talking to him. And he said, ‘By the way, I’m Doc Severinsen.’ And I say, ‘Oh, it’s nice to meet you.’ And then I walk back to the stage and play more, and I didn’t know he was so famous. So I went back to my house and checked it out on the computer and discovered him. Wow, he’s amazing. He continued coming back to where I was playing, and we became good friends. We toured for eight years after that.”

On his future plans …

“After here, I’m going back to San Miguel de Allende [to] the restaurant that I own and continue my music, and I bring a lot of musicians and teach there. I will come back soon to the States as soon we have some dates here, but most of the time I come here every May and spend here the whole month of May visiting friends and visiting my kids. …

“I’m very glad to be back in New York City. I was in 2011 with Doc Severinsen at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, and I really enjoy New York.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Gil Gutiérrez will play the Jazz Standard Wednesday, May 24 in New York City. Joining him will be Robert Stern and David Rodriguez. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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