JazzReview.com: It has been a year and a half since we sat in Cafe de la Press in San Francisco and talked about your upcoming CD, "A Good Cup of Joe." I'm sure our readers would like to hear the inside story on how you were picked up by Instinct Jazz?
Joe Fuentes: "There are a lot of updates because there has been many developments since we last spoke at Café de la Press... By the way, I happened to be there the other day and I was reminded of the great time I had on our previous chat. Firstly, I am no longer with Instinct Records. Our relationship was not yielding the kind of results I was expecting. Changes in my life and personnel changes at Instinct were catalysts in re-evaluation of my goals as an artist. After weeks of deep soul searching, I concluded it was perhaps not a good Artist/Label for a variety of reasons . . . a bit too complicated to get into on this interview. Fortunately, however, Instinct and I parted ways on very good terms. I feel a debt of gratitude for the opportunity they gave me to participate in their compilations. A few months after this I was lucky to have Les Cutmore, the manager for Paul Hardcastle of the JazzMasters, listen to some of my tracks from my website. He was looking for new artists to sign. So, the CD is coming out under "Trippin' 'n Rhythm" -- the same label that Paul Hardcastle works with. I am really excited because Les and John (Morison) really liked my material and were totally behind it from the beginning."
JazzReview.com: I understand you did four compilations with Instinct Records? How did that come about? Where did you record? Who did you groove with?
Joe Fuentes: "Well, two of the tracks for two of the compilations were taken directly from my self-released "Acoustic Trio." CD. "Summer's Here" for the compilation, "Welcome to the Jazz Café," and "Elegancias" for "Love, Bossa Nova Style." Another track, "Slow Brew," was taken from my CD "A Good Cup of Joe" for "Smooth Groves for a Rainy Day." Another track was specifically made to fit a certain 70's update vibe they were trying to create. I've been doing all my recordings in my home studio and I really enjoy the flexibility and freedom it offers."
JazzReview.com: Compilations are always a good way to listen to a variety of artists or when you want to capture a certain mood. When is national release is slated? Have you any plans for a stateside tour to promote your new release?
Joe Fuentes: "The release to the stores has been set for April 3rd, but we are hoping radio stations pick it up and start giving it some spins this month so people get a chance to hear it before it hits the street. There are plans to go to various states in the country and play some dates to promote the record. As soon as things are arranged they will be posted on my website so audiences can come check us out."
JazzReview.com: I caught your performance at the Earth Day celebration in San Fran two summer's ago and noted on your website (joefuentes.com) that you also played last year at San Fran's KKSF Earth Day Celebration at the Concord Pavilion and at the San Jose Earth Day Celebration last April. These events always draw a huge crowd. Who joined you in your performance?
Joe Fuentes: "Both these events are very popular and draw large audiences from all over the bay area. I have been lucky to be asked to participate two years in a row and I must say it's a lot of fun! The energy the audience brings to both these events, in particular the Concord Pavilion (now known as the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord) is remarkable and very contagious. I am hoping to be asked to play again this year. We had such a great time and it would be good to play again this year, especially since my CD will be coming out about the same time. Last year I played with my trio. I had John Lester on bass (both upright and electric) and Phil Hawkings on drums. These two guys make me sound so good. It is totally amazing. We had a really good response from our performance there."
JazzReview.com: I know you are always creating and writing. How has your musical statement expanded since last we talked?
Joe Fuentes: "Let me start by saying that my life is slightly different now. I have a new source of inspiration. My wife and I became very proud parents of our first child, a son. We are completely in awe about how wonderful parenthood can be. Our new addition to the family has shifted some of my focus in terms of "world view." I still hold my fundamental principals and beliefs, but now I seem to be thinking more about the environment, the economy, education, etc. I always paid attention to these things, but now they seem to be filtered through the eyes of a father who is looking out for what's best for his son rather than simply what's the best thing for me or the world in general. The experience of fatherhood is still a very fresh in my mind and the musical ideas have not been developed from that perspective. However, I can feel a wave of creativity every time I look in his eyes."
JazzReview.com: Since you were raised in Mexico City until the age of 20, have you thought of combining any of your homeland influences into your acoustic jazz guitar styling?
Joe Fuentes: "I have always liked music that incorporates the personal experience of the musician/artist involved in creating it, especially if it is done in the context of jazz-fusion. My approach has always been one of letting the influence flow from its source. In other words, I like to let the particular influence move me through the creative process rather than infusing the influence to the composition. That said, I am working on revamping/modernizing a collection of tunes that I used to listen to when I was a little kid growing up in Mexico. In fact, some of them are tunes I learned to play the guitar with way back when. They represent my musical roots, if you will. They are beautiful songs from a wide spectrum of sources, like songs from Cuban composers/songwriters from "La Nueva Trova Cubana," such as Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez, or Boleros from Armando Manzanero and Marco Antonio Muñiz. Of course, there is the occasional tango from Carlos Gardel."
"As you know, I studied classical guitar as a teenager. This required a lot of solo playing. It was great training and also a great way to practice and compose. As a matter of fact, most of my music has been written on the guitar. With that in mind, I intend to record a collection of solo compositions. I am not sure if they'll make it into the next CD, but I feel very close to the selections and feel I will have a lot of fun recording them. Don't worry, I am sure they will find their way out there."
JazzReview.com: What do you consider your favorite or best composition on "A Good Cup of Joe?" Where do you get your inspiration for composing a song?
Joe Fuentes: "That is always a difficult question to answer. I often hear other artists asked this very same type of question and they always say it is like choosing between children. Now that I am a father, I think I would put my music on a different level. Because of the amount of love and attachment I have for my son, it is incomparable to what I feel about my music, or anything else for that matter. That said, I do agree it is very difficult to choose a favorite. They all represent a part of me. I spent hours writing, arranging and recording them, so I like them all in different ways. In a way it is like comparing apples, oranges, pineapples and grapes. They all taste good to me. My songs represent a particular frame of mind at the given moment."
"The inspiration for writing the tunes for the CD came from my personal association with coffee. You may notice that most of the titles reflect that, but it didn't all come together as a project until I wrote the title track while having "A Good Cup of Joe." When I realized there was a connection between coffee and my name, the whole concept of calling the CD "A Good Cup of Joe" came to light. The songs on the album follow that frame of mind. And, since there is a connection between my name and coffee, I tried to make the project something of a personal thing, and then share it"
JazzReview.com: We would like to thank Joe for taking time out his busy schedule to chat with us. Keep up with Joe's latest happenings and tour dates by visiting his website at www.joefuentes.com.