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Genres You Will Love
Latin: Afro Peruvian Jazz: Latin Jazz Moods: Instrumental Moods: Type: Instrumental Jazz: Contemporary Jazz

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Juan Pastor Chinchano

A fusion of jazz and Peruvian rhythms, Chinchano reflects the music influential in the life of drummer, percussionist, and bandleader Juan Pastor, and their latest release Un Cambio reflects the hope Pastor has for upcoming changes in his life and in the world.

While growing up in Peru, Pastor was always fascinated by this foreign music called jazz. So, when he decided to study it at Northern Illinois University in 2006, he really had no interest in performing Latin music. “While there were plenty of other students interested in Latin music and its influence on the evolution of jazz, what I really wanted to do was swing,” Pastor recounts of his time in college.

One of those students who was interested in Latin music was pianist Stu Mindeman. Though never in any formal setting, Pastor and Mindeman would get together and explore the intersections of America’s jazz music and Peru’s traditional folk music. Now, years later, the two are constant collaborators and each provided half of the compositions on Un Cambio.

Mindeman made a recent trip to Peru where he learned more about Peruvian folk music and also met members of Pastor’s family. Pastor notes, “When Stu went there, he met my sister, whom the song “Micaela” is named after. So, when I sent him an early sketch with just melody and a little harmonic information, a day later he sent me back a fully formed piano intro. The countermelody you hear in the beginning of that track, that’s all Stu.” Pastor said that he does the same for songs that Mindeman brings in, sometimes spending hours singing the melody the pianist has written while finding the perfect drum pattern to fit.

Pastor also met two other musicians while attending Northern Illinois: trumpeter Marquis Hill (winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition in 2014) and alto saxophonist Rich Moore (Joliet Junior College jazz faculty). “Rich Moore’s saxophone and Marquis Hill’s trumpet often sound like they’re played by the same person; a steady stream of melody consciousness sliding along over the top of the rhythm section’s grooves” ( When bassist Patrick Mulcahy recently joined the group, Chinchano had already released one album and played several shows with a few other bassists, but after some rhythm section rehearsals and shows, Mulcahy fell right in with the rest of the group and is now a part of what Pastor describes as “the family”.

Chinchano’s eponymous release last year was met with wide acclaim. The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich said they have “created a music of considerable textural complexity, but also unmistakable lyrical grace,” and he called it “one of the best of the year.” Peter Margasak noted that they “more often than not work Afro-Peruvian elements into original tunes that accent top-flight mainstream jazz.” “The tunes feature continuously evolving structures and shimmering harmonies fueled by joyous Peruvian grooves not commonly encountered by Northern ears” (Downbeat).

In contrast to their first effort, Un Cambio is more of a group creation. Rather than Pastor bringing compositions to some musicians playing for him, each member pours their own creativity and voice into every song. “It’s definitely got a band feel to it now. We’ve found how to interact with each other and where each person fits within the group’s voice.”

Un Cambio opens with the pensive “Marea Alta” followed by the loping “El Plebeyo”. The former sets the standard of melodies based in groove, and the latter perfectly exemplifies this album at its best, a Peruvian folk song set to a jazz waltz. “Festejo Desaparecido” is a song that pays tribute to those who disappeared during the reign of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and at the track’s conclusion, Mindeman’s synthesizer simulates the lost souls moving on. The Venezuelan merengue “Canchita” concludes the brief tour of South America.

Later in the album, “Pisando Tierra”, which loosely translates to “stepping ground”, appropriately depicts a dancing celebration of these musicians happily coming together to work, and “Blustejo” expertly joins the blues with the Peruvian groove festejo. The album closes out with “Anhelando un Cambio” or “hoping for a change”. This track closes out the album with the sounds of Lima’s streets and is meant to inspire the listener by telling a small part of the story of immigrants coming to the city to change their destiny.

“Un Cambio is a story about coming to terms with life. It’s about seeing life as it really is, with all of its joy, fear, pain, and love. We are all thrown into life at high tide, never knowing where we’ll be swept off to next, and the journey is fraught with storms. So often love doesn’t unfold in the way we want, and moments of hope and inspiration interrupt our confusion all too infrequently. We have watched, unable to help, as loved ones suffer. And when some of them disappear along the way, we are never prepared. We may find ourselves yearning for a change, yet change occurs in ways we least expect. Still, this is the life we are given, so we stomp our feet on the ground in a dance of celebration.”
- Chinchano