On Thursday March 21st, Sculler’s Jazz Club was filled with the infectious grooves and positive energy of Mixcla, who expertly crafted a fantastic set of Afro-Cuban jazz music.
Mixcla is a play on word, melding the English word mix with the Spanish word mezcla (also meaning mix or mixture). This diverse group of musicians have a unique energy and have played all over the world together to bring new voice to Afro-Cuban jazz.
The trio is led by Cuban pianist and composer Zahili Gonzalez Zamora, a fantastic instrumentalist and vocalist with a bright smile and inviting attitude. Her energy and virtuosity lit up the room. She was joined by Chilean bassist Ferson Esteban Lazo Quiroga on bass and cowbell. His complex bass lines danced around the rhythmic patterns he tapped out with his foot. Takatumi Nikaido, a Japanese percussionist, played congas and bata with an intensity that you usually only hear from Cuban-born musicians. His love and respect for the music was clear. I talked to him afterwards and he has studied with many prolific Afro-Cuban musicians, including the legendary Changuito. These three fantastic musicians met at The Berklee School of Music and have been working together for four years to perfect their act.
For some songs, the trio became a quartet as Ecuadoran trumpet player Raul Sanchez fit right in with his technical and soulful melodies.
Mixcla played original tunes as well and variety of arrangements. Their original music ranged from intensely rhythmic works to a smooth and sultry ballad sung by Zamora and Quiroga about how their friendship turned to love.
Two exceptional pieces were classical works by Cuban composer José Ardévol that the band reimagined as Boleros (a well-known rhythm from Cuban popular music).
In addition to the Boleros, Mixcla played other forms of Cuban popular music, including a soul-filled Rumba sung by Zamora.
While the trio are equal in musicality, Zamora is clearly the driving force of the group. Her love for the music is clear and her jazz studies at Berklee have only enhanced her abilities. Her ability to play complex piano runs while singing harmonies over them was particularly exceptional. I hope to learn more about her and her musical influences and plans for the future.
Mixcla is determined to spread their joy and give audiences a fantastic musical experience that is not only virtuosic but also intimate. Check out their facebook page for more information and upcoming tour dates.
Sculler’s Jazz Club is located inside the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in Boston. They have live music on most days of the week and have a Latin jazz series on Thursday nights. Check out their website to stay up to date with their wonderful programming and to support live music!