Mexico’s Jazz Treasure and Champion: Marisol Echegoyen

Singer Marisol Echegoyen

Nothing is ever quite fully appreciated in the location of its origin. That’s particularly true when it comes to Jazz. This musical artform was spawned in the United States and as beloved as it is in cities like New Orleans, New York, LA, and others, the international embrace it receives in many other countries is overwhelming. While Paris has long been noted for its affinity of Jazz, you might be surprised to hear that Mexico shares this fascination. Prominent singer Marisol Echegoyen eagerly confirms this. For her and so many other music artists from Mexico, Jazz offers the mystery and mastery which is so unique to it. Having led her bands at many of the country’s most popular Jazz Festivals, Marisol has garnered notoriety for her vocal stylings as well as her commitment to this music genre. Though she has one ear to the popular music which her generation revels in, Ms. Echegoyen’s performances confirm her respect for American Jazz and its rich lineage.

Marisol performing on stage in 2014

  As a young girl, Marisol didn’t know what jazz what but simply referred to it as “music in English.” Always an aspiring vocalist, she discovered that the opportunity to study Jazz Voice in a music conservatory at the age of fifteen fueled an exploration of the genre for her. Tracking down any and all books available in Mexico about jazz became her mission. Upon her admission into the music conservatory, she found that many instrumentalists were not completely welcoming to vocalists. She recalls, “Whenever they would jam or rehearse, they would exclude me. They wanted to play instrumental jazz like Donna Lee from Charlie Parker. They would say: ‘You are a singer you can’t sing this. Just leave!’ Then they would laugh. This made my blood boil so I decided that whatever song they played I would learn, even if it was written for trumpet or saxophone. I could sight-read too! Actually, most jazz songs I would learn by looking at the sheet music first. I started transcribing solos from Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Clifford Brown since I thought that trumpet was more in my vocal range and something that I could try to sing. I would practice them really slowly and I would practice a lot so I could one day improvise like them. The first song that I transcribed was Milestones by Miles Davis.” 

  This creative drive and commitment to excellence has propelled Ms. Echegoyen to become one of the most versatile and recognized jazz singers of her generation in Mexico. In a variety of ensembles at the biggest jazz events in Mexico, Marisol has been the lead singer and focal point of jazz enthusiasts and aficionados. Her riveting performances with Big Band con Cantantes at the UAM-X 40th Jazz Festival, the Enrique Valadez Big Band at the Plaza Loreto Jazz Festival and International Jazz Day World Celebration, and at events like the 40th Jazz Festival: Tomas Rodriguez Tribute, 41st Jazz Festival: Enrique Nery Tribute, and others have reached fans in the thousands in person and on radio broadcast. Fronting the bands of other celebrated jazz band leaders or fronting her own ensembles, Marisol has become the face of vocal jazz in Mexico. Citing such great singers as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin as major inspirations, Ms. Echegoyen honors the jazz philosophy by infusing her approach to the genre with the influences of her native country for an original approach that respects the musical tradition of both. She makes the distinction, “As a vocalist, I think there are certain factors that make singing American Jazz and Latin American Jazz different. In American Jazz I have to adapt to the stories/experiences of people who are from a different country; interpret the story of another community respecting the style in terms of phrasing, vocal technique, improvisation and its groove. American Jazz also encompasses a lot of different styles depending on the time in history that it was played. Its focus, instrumentation and arrangements directly affect the way of singing. Latin America mixes their own rhythms into the style so when I sing Latin Jazz I think more of dancing with my friends and having fun, enjoying. For this style I need to listen to the percussion instruments that play a very important role in the groove; I have to incorporate my singing to the sound of maracas, maybe a cowbell, and congas. The phrasing also changes. Instead of singing with the classic swing phrasing, I follow a rhythmic pattern like the clave.” Those who truly understand jazz will tell you that it’s the music of personal statement, of unique and individual expression. While it may have originated in the United States, those who created it were using the influence of their own culture which was not from America. It seems fitting that influential artists outside the U.S. will take on this journey, such as Marisol Echegoyen. 

Writer: Coleman Haan

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