His first Jazz influence and mentor Clark Terry, taught him to " Emulate, assimilate and innovate." Lujan was blessed with the gift of a heart to heart transmission in the spirit of the African oral tradition, from a master who doesn't just play Jazz, He IS Jazz. This is shared by all the artists honored - who as Tony Lujan says " swung when they walked and swung when they talked. " They played the life they lived. All of these innovative artists are also African Americans whose true genius was creating a music with roots in the African aesthetic, but as music with a universality that anyone with a true Jazz heart could participate in fully, contribute to and through spirit touch the African Roots of the Music.
In the Americas, the African Diaspora created musics throughout Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Tony Lujan, a Mexican American, has made the logical leap to connect American Jazz with the music of the Afro-Latino world. His first love was Be-Bop- the USA's diasporic music, but he is, after all Latino, and connected by language, culture and blood to Latin Music and currently feels that Latin Jazz is an energetic and explosive arena with unlimited possibilities. The Jazz-Latin connection was first made by Dizzy Gilespie when he collaborated with Chano Pozo, effectively creating the modern art of Latin Jazz. There had been Jazz-Latin connections many times before dating back to the heydays of New Orleans- but never quite so successfully as to begin a new genre.
Lujan takes this process to a whole new level in "Tribute". After spending 6 months living in Puerto Rico to prepare, he assembled a dream team of heavy hitters including Conrad Herwig, Yosvanni Terry, Miguel Zenon, Richie Flores, John Benitez, Edsel Gomez, Dafnis Prieto, Lusito Quintero and Roberto Quintero. All these players were his friends and shared his enthusiasm for the project. They were all paying Tribute as they contributed their energy, enthusiasm and artistry. He also pulled in arrangers Felipe Salles, Joel Yennor and Jorge Piedra as he focused on doing the best justice to each composition using the most complimentary rhythm. He used Salsa for "Nardis" since he knew that Miles loved that music and frequented the Salsa Clubs in New York. He used Afro-Cuban for Freddie Hubbard's "Intrepid Fox" and Merengue for Woody Shaw's " Tomorrow's Destiny, and a Danzon for his orginal "Forever My Love". He also included "Short Story" by Kenny Dorham, an artist Lujan says " was an uncrowned hero who died too young" . We hear Lee Morgan's "Ceora", Clifford Brown's "Daahoud" Dizzy Gilespie's " Tin Tin Deo" and from Clark Terry "Sheba", a song Tony Lujan heard him play many times.
Clark Terry always stressed " You've got to find your own voice". Now that Tony Lujan has accomplished that, through years of paying Jazz dues, he now is moved to pay Tribute to all the colors, energies and elements that helped make up that voice, to give back the gifts he was given and to complete the circle as he continues to hold a high standard and create beauty - with his own voice. Tribute is a groundbreaking work which set a new standard in the Art Of Latin Jazz.