Marialy Pacheco: Music as Memory

Marialy Pacheco

by Phil Sandford

On the eve of departing for a three-month tour of Europe and Japan, Marialy Pacheco has released her sixth CD, Spaces Within.

The winner of the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, Pacheco has assembled eight original compositions that reflect a wide variety of moods, from the bass and drums of ‘Song No. I’ to the intricate rhythms of ‘Sale El Sol’, from the gentle ‘September’ to the calm beauty of ‘Song No II’.

The idea for the album came when Pacheco was on holiday in Thailand in 2011: ‘I had time to be alone and to reflect. I was at this very quiet beach and I wanted to stay there forever. I watched the water going out from the beach and it was the most beautiful thing. It inspired me to write ‘Low Tides’ and I decided to make an album that reflected some of the beautiful moments that had happened in my life. The music is like a memory, like a photograph. It’s a very personal album.’

Praise for trio partners

Pacheco is unstinting her praise of her fellow musicians on the CD, bassist Pat Marchisella and drummer Joe Marchisella: ‘I’m very happy to have musicians like this working with me because it is difficult music and you need good musicians that support you so you feel comfortable.’

She adds, ‘I love it that Joe can play any rhythm that I like.  I’ll say, ‘Is that possible?’ and he’ll come up with something amazing. He has no limits as to what he can do as a drummer and that gives me the freedom to push him and to push the music as far as I like.

For Pacheco, Pat ‘has an amazing technique and I love his precision. He is perfectly in tune and very strong. I love playing with him because nothing can go wrong’.

She is also full of praise for her new bassist, Andrew Shaw, ‘who also has a very good technique, but a looser feel. They both bring very different things to the same music’.

Born in Cuba of musical parents, Pacheco was able to go to music schools  throughout her education: ‘In Cuba one of the really good things we have is that if you want to be a piano player then you go to the music school – you don’t play piano and something else, you play piano.

‘You have the elementary level from seven to fifteen, then the medium level from sixteen to nineteen and then the university of music. They are all part of the same system, all teaching classical music.’

The Köln Concert

She first became aware of jazz at the age of eighteen when she was given a copy of Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert. ‘It was the turning point of my life,’ she says. ‘I could not believe what I was listening to. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t even know who Keith Jarrett was, but I knew that I wanted to play like that.’

She began transcribing solos and learning tunes by ear, given the unavailability of jazz scores in Cuba: ‘When I went to Germany for the first time I went to a music store and I saw all this music and I said, “Oh, my God if only Cuba was like this”.’

She listened to Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau and Art Tatum and Cuban piano players like Chucho Valdes, Roberto Fonseca,  Emiliano Salvador and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, ‘who is one of my heroes as well – he’s beyond words’.

At the same time, she continued her conservatorium studies in composition with Tulio Peramo, a well-known Cuban composer. ‘Everything I do now is because of what I learned then’, she says. ‘Tulio was very hard on me and rejected many of my compositions. But he was right – you need to learn the techniques of classical composition, harmony, counterpoint, all that. You need to know that very well before you can do your own thing.’

In 2002 she won JoJazz, a Cuban jazz competition, and as a result recorded her first album, Tocando Dentro (2005), composing all the tracks. She moved to Germany in 2004, recording two albums with David Jehn on bass and Eddie Fillip on drums, Benediciones (2005) and Destinos (2008) and a solo album, Mi Azul (2006).

In 2009, Pacheco moved to Brisbane and released the solo album Songs That I Love in 2011, dedicating her composition ‘Sunshine State’ to her new home.

Always pushing herself musically, Pacheco will play with two Colombian musicians while she is in Europe and she has just released a trio CD in Japan, Tokyo Call, with two Japanese musicians.

‘Very good, but too safe’

While living in Germany, Pacheco  had some ‘really, really good lessons with Richie Beirach which opened my mind to experimentation.  The first thing he said to me was, ‘You’re very good, but you’re too safe’.  I’ve taken his advice to heart on this CD’.


Marialy Pacheco on the web:

Pinnacles Music: