Aquiles Navarro: Live from Tyrant Studios

I purchased and listened to this Bandcamp release, then reached out to Navarro to learn more

Aquiles Navarro: Live from Tyrant Studios
Photo: Denis Batuev

Over a year ago, on February 21, 2023, I received a type of email to which I now look forward every Tuesday. "You missed a big one," the Rhythm Changes reader wrote. "Irreversible Entanglements at the Chan Centre Saturday." It was my first year of doing the gig list, and the Chan wasn't yet in my bookmarks folder.

I had no excuse. On February 17, I had published an article for you where I quoted Tim Reinert telling me how that avant-garde five-piece called Irreversible Entanglements "are somewhat of a supergroup in the US free jazz scene right now, and are playing the Chan Centre [on Saturday, February 25]." I even added the date myself in brackets!

8EAST, however, was on my watch-list. I had included three names in an event listing there on Sunday: bassist Luke Stewart, drummer Tcheser Holmes, and trumpeter Aquiles Navarro played a set with Jesse and Josh Zubot and with NOW Society artistic director Lisa Cay Miller.

Stewart, Holmes, and Navarro are all members of Irreversible Entanglements. When this year's jazzfest lineup came to light, I noticed that the group will play at Performance Works and that Navarro and Holmes will play a Frankie's After Dark duo set, both on June 22nd.

It reminded me of last winter; Tim was talking to me last year because he had booked Navarro to play at the New Thing avant-garde series, co-presented by his Infidels Jazz and Miller's NOW. He told me in that same mid-February article, "I honestly have no idea what [Navarro's] show is going to be like, as he wants to wait until he gets here to figure out who he's going to play with."

Almost a year later, a release titled Aquiles Navarro Live from Tyrant Studios. Vancouver, British Columbia appeared on Bandcamp under Navarro's label called River Down Records. So now – even if you, like me, weren't there – we know.

After I purchased and listened to Live from Tyrant Studios, I reached out to Navarro to learn more about his time here in early 2023. The trumpeter and DJ, of Panamanian descent, has a Canadian connection. "I was born in Toronto, but never as an adult spent time in Canada and even less made music there, so my desire to spend more time [in Canada] was something I was looking forward to," he said.

His talks to come spend more time in Vancouver happened in Germany. "I met pianist Lisa Cay Miller at a festival in Berlin," said Navarro, "and as we spoke I shared the desire of spending more time in Vancouver, besides the concert I already had planned at the Chan Centre with Irreversible Entanglements."

On the recording, Navarro plays with Miller on the Tyrant piano, electronics artist Andromeda Monk, and drummer Adrian Avendaño: "I was on the lookout for other musicians [who] caught my attention, for them to join me on the set. The quartet ended up being put all together the day before the show." Navarro had been in touch with Avendaño ahead of his visit, though not specifically about the show.

My last question to Navarro was about the extent to which he'd say the music on this recording was improvised, versus made from pre-existing melodies/structures:

"The music was fully improvised. I had a background composition with different sections, moods, but no melody was already set. We were fully improvising, listening, and building the moment."

When it came to put the record together, the whole performance was one single performance. But as I was listening, I felt we had different sections; so I decided to cut the tracks where a new section was introduced, making it more album-listening-friendly."

The solo opening track "introducción" sets a mood just a couple miles south of spaced-out Miles Davis, and the second track "por la mañana" keeps that up as the ensemble rumbles gently beneath Navarro...