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Ranier Pucheux & Big Band MeridaNov 18th Jazz in Town

In March of this year, I caught up with Merida Big Band director Ranier Pucheux backstage at Peon Contreras before their show “Swinging Big Band”. As I walked in through the backdoor and entered stage right through the side curtain, I could feel the air thick with excitement and what a beautiful sight it is to look out from the stage onto the grandiose theater and its red velvet seats, five stories of balcony and the cupula with a spectacular fresco and a majestic chandelier hanging from the center.  I have been to this theater on countless occasions, but always as a part of the audience. Getting a view from the perspective of the artist is a completely new experience. It is as if encapsulated in the curtains, stage, rafters, and lighting you can feel each tiny remnant of energy left behind by every artist who has ever performed on that stage. There is a phantom presence in the theater that for me seems as sacred as the old cathedrals or a night stroll through the forest. I arrived very early, there were only one or two musicians preparing their instruments including Pucheux who was setting up his clarinet.  As he saw me enter, he graciously took a quick break to talk to me about the Merida Big Band and some of their upcoming projects. 

Merida's Budding Jazz Scene Gina Osorno & The Dreamers

When I was eighteen and in college I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were so many fascinating subjects and I longed to study them all. Therefore, quite to my parent’s dismay, I did the only logical thing I could think of at the time—take a full semester load of dance classes and try to get some inspiration. I took Mexican Folkloric dance, Ballet, Modern, Physical Theater and Jazz. Needless to say, it was a busy and physically exhausting semester. I spent countless hours on the stage and performing in the theater. The theater became my home and the dancers my family. One memory in particular that has always stayed with me about that time in my life was being a passive observer of the performance right before one of my numbers. It was a partner jazz dance where the couple intertwined their bodies and energy to the tune of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”. I would watch from the stage left behind the side curtains, utterly hypnotized. It was during those timeless fall evenings when I would lose myself in the movement of the couple and the brassy voice of Porter that I fell in love with jazz. There is a certain sophistication to jazz that invokes my creative inner muse and opens my pandora’s box of dreams. There is nothing better than sitting, looking over the lights of the big city or sitting on a balcony under the stars with a glass of wine in your hand and the piano of Thelonious Monk or the voice of Etta James in the background. When I moved to Merida eight years ago, I tried to find a jazz scene. There wasn’t too much happening then; however, little by little as Merida becomes an emerging metropolis, there seems to be a growing interest in jazz. I heard Gina Osorno for the first time in Hennessey’s Irish pub. She was playing with her band Copy Paste, a group that plays cover rock and pop songs. Gina is a sing, song writer and composer from Merida, Yucatan. She has a sultry voice and a compelling stage presence and her band gets everyone out of their chairs to dance. However, Copy Paste is not Gina’s only band. About six years ago, Gina found herself exploring the complexities of the jazz genre with Mauricio Bonfiglio, an exceptionally talented Argentinian drummer and jazz composer living in Merida. Bonfiglio presents his show Jazz Sensitive regularly and at that time,  he had invited her as an guest singer. In 2015,  Gina decided to launch her very own jazz band called Gina Osorno & the Dreamers with Alberto Palomo on the guitar, Hugo Aguilar on the bass and Mizael Manrique on the drums. This band interprets classic tunes from the 20’s and 40’s such as How High the Moon, Black Coffee, Aguas de Marzo, Besame Mucho, Quiza, Quiza, Quiza. I enjoy listening to them because they create their own modern spin to these songs without losing the vintage essence of the originals. They also explore popular music such as Rehab by Amy Winehouse and Seven Nation Army by White Stripes in swing, blues, bebop, bossanova and samba. 

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