Imer Santiago | Hidden Journey

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Hidden Journey

by Imer Santiago

This debut Jazz album from a Nashville-based trumpeter, composer, & educator features elements of the Blues, Straight-ahead Jazz, Latin Jazz, and Funk, including nine original compositions and two fresh arrangements of classic Jazz standards.
Genre: Jazz: Contemporary Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Girls’ Night Out
7:31 $0.99
2. Fourthcoming
5:56 $0.99
3. Flat 2176 (For Miles)
3:17 $0.99
4. The Very Thought of You
4:13 $0.99
5. Hidden Journey
7:52 $0.99
6. Flat 2176 (Para Puente)
5:46 $0.99
7. What a Wonderful World
5:46 $0.99
8. Keegan’s Prelude
0:41 $0.99
9. Lonely Nights
5:43 $0.99
10. Reminiscence
6:11 $0.99
11. Keegan’s Lullaby
4:12 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Nashville is not widely known as a jazz town, although jazz has long been part of the country music capital’s cultural fabric. Many musicians who earn their livings doing country recording sessions by day have played jazz for pleasure by night. The history of jazz in Nashville has been largely hidden, but with the release of trumpeter Imer Santiago’s debut CD, Hidden Journey on saxophonist Rahsaan Barber’s Jazz Music City label, the vibrancy of the Tennessee city’s current jazz scene comes into shining focus.

Santiago was surprised by what he found when he moved to Nashville from Austin, Texas, in 2007 to begin teaching music at Moses McKissack Middle School. “I was impressed with the kindness of the people in the city,” he says. “Music and the arts in general are well represented here. I thought that I would only find Country and Christian music, but there are tons of jazz cats here. If you want rap, it’s here. If you want Latin, it’s here. They’re strong scenes, and they’re growing.”

Hidden Journey is the third full-length CD to be released by Jazz Music City. It follows Barber’s critically acclaimed Everyday Magic (2011) and pianist Bruce Dudley’s The Solo Sessions (2012). Barber produced Hidden Journey, and both he and Dudley, among the most creative and in-demand young jazz musicians in Nashville, are prominent on Santiago’s CD. Bassist Jon Estes and drummer Josh Hunt play on all but two of the disc’s 11 tracks. Percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez, who co-leads the Latin-jazz fusion band El Movimiento with Santiago and Barber, contributes his congas and timbales to two. El Movimiento guitarist James DaSilva plays on two others, and Imer’s younger brother Ivan Santiago lends his electric bass to another. Nashville jazz veteran Rod McGaha joins Santiago on a second trumpet for “Fourthcoming,” a modal Santiago composition that alternates between 6/4 and 5/4 time. Stephanie Adlington, a Jazz Music City artist who has recorded a jazz treatment of “Tennessee Waltz” as a single for the label, is featured vocally on Santiago and Barber’s laid-back arrangement of the Ray Noble standard, “The Very Thought of You.”

Santiago has known Barber for the past five and a half years. “He’s not only a great musician but a kindhearted, loving person,” the trumpeter says. “I consider him one of my best friends and truly a brother. You may not associate Nashville with jazz or Latin jazz, but Rahsaan has an open mind to what the future can be. And he’s an entrepreneur. All those things led me to ask him to produce this record.”

Bassist Estes contributed to the making of Hidden Journey in three different ways. “I hired him specifically to play bass,” Santiago says, “but it ended up that he also mixed and mastered the record and was the photographer for the picture on the CD cover.”

Of drummer Hunt, who has been touring with bluegrass great Alison Krauss, Santiago says, “In the two or three years he’s been in Nashville, he’s been picking up gigs left and right with a lot of different artists. He looks like a country guy, but he gets behind the set and swings like crazy.”

Hidden Journey opens with “Girls’ Night Out,” a hard-shuffling Art Blakey–inspired 12-bar blues with an eight-bar bridge on which Santiago’s gutsy solo suggests his fondness for former Blakey trumpeters Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. Santiago originally wrote the tune as a blues, and Barber later added the bridge.

The Santiago composition “Flat 2176,” named for the street address of Ivan Santiago’s house where Imer lived when he first came to Nashville, is heard in two different versions. The first, “Flat 2176 (Para Puente),” sports a four-man horn section, is dedicated to Tito Puente, and is given a Latin-jazz treatment that’s not unlike the music Santiago plays in El Movimiento. The second, “Flat 2176 (For Miles),” is rendered without piano at a fast straight-ahead clip and was recorded at the end of the session in one take. Santiago utilizes a Harmon mute, much as Miles Davis often did.

The modal Santiago-Barber song “Hidden Journey,” which employs a partido alto groove akin to that of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” is named for a trip Santiago and his future wife Laisa took to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2010. “She thought we were going to buy a trumpet,” he recalls. After purchasing the horn, he surprised her by asking her “to spend the rest of her days with me” and placed an engagement ring on her finger.

Their son, Keegan Imer Santiago, was born in December 2011 and can be heard laughing at seven months of age during the brief “Keegan’s Prelude,” which is followed three tracks later by the longer “Keegan’s Lullaby.” “Keegan is not the most Puerto Rican or Hispanic name you’re going to hear,” his father says. “I was trying to go for an Irish or Celtic melody in a very loose way. It’s a pretty melody, and it reflects some of the joy of having a child.”

Santiago plays “What a Wonderful World” as a lyrical homage to Louis Armstrong, taking the tune in waltz time instead of the usual 4/4. Armstrong had been one of Santiago’s earliest favorites. While he was working on his master’s degree at the University of New Orleans, Santiago’s admiration grew even deeper when he discovered the profound respect New Orleans trumpet players had for the late jazz giant.

Two other Santiago compositions, the pensive “Lonely Nights” and the cha-cha-fueled “Reminiscence,” round out the program on Hidden Journey.

Edwin Imer Santiago was born on October 26, 1976, in Lorain, Ohio, to parents originally from Puerto Rico. He spoke only Spanish prior to kindergarten. English has been his primary tongue ever since, although he also speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese. He took up trumpet while in the fifth grade, initially inspired by a trumpeter he remembers only as “Junior” who played at a mostly Hispanic local Assembly of God church. Santiago grew up listening to church hymns and to African-American gospel songs that had been translated into Spanish. Remaining active in church music, he toured from 2004 to 2007 as a member of the prominent Austin-based Christian rock band Salvador, with whom he still plays occasional dates. He currently serves as the worship coordinator at The Church At Antioch, an ethnically diverse congregation in the Antioch district of Nashville.

After high school, where he played in the orchestra, marching band, and jazz band and discovered the music of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, Santiago spent five years at The Ohio State University, where trumpet-playing professor Pharez Whitted was a huge influence on his musical development. After earning bachelor’s degrees in jazz studies and atmospheric sciences from Ohio State, Santiago attended the University of New Orleans, from which he received a master’s of music degree in jazz studies in 2000. Among his instructors in New Orleans were Ellis Marsalis, Wendell Brunious, Harold Battiste, and Clyde Kerr Jr.

Initially drawn to Nashville because Salvador’s management and record label were located there, Santiago began teaching middle school in 2007 and in August 2012 also began working part-time as an adjunct trumpet instructor at Tennessee State University. His middle school job having just ended, he will begin working in the fall of 2013 as the director of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ ambitious new district-wide mariachi music program for students in grades 6 through 12.

Besides playing with and co-leading El Movimiento, which grew out of a weekly jam session that he, Barber, and Rodriguez launched in 2008, Santiago does sessions in Nashville studios on an average of twice a month. One of his most interesting studio dates was a recent collaboration with musicians in Mumbai, India, on a dance tune titled “Battameez Dil.” Santiago recorded his trumpet, along with a horn section in Nashville, while the producers in India communicated with them over Skype. “They could see and hear us,” he says of the Mumbai musicians. A lively Bollywood-style video of the song can be viewed on YouTube.

With the release of Hidden Journey, Imer Santiago steps out of the shadows as a trumpet stylist and composer to be reckoned with in the jazz world at large, and provides additional evidence of the exciting new jazz movement that’s emerging in the country music capital.

“I see myself long-term here in Nashville, as do Rahsaan and Giovanni,” Santiago says. “Could we go to New York and make it? I think we could, but I feel that Nashville has a lot to offer, and we’d like to see jazz and other music really associated with the city’s name in the next 20 years. We really feel like there’s great talent here.” •



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