Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #27 — Santiago Leibson

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

Pianist Santiago Leibson, a native of Buenos Aires, released a very special album in 2016 with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Devin Gray: Out of Orden (Kuai Music), its music lyrical, buoyant and atmospheric by turns. This trio plays Sound It Out at Greenwich House – an ideal venue for the group – on June 23, 2018. It’s an encore performance for the pianist soon after he made a great series debut this past March alongside Gray and bassist Michael Formanek. About the original Out of Orden band, Santiago says: “I think the trio with Drew and Devin has a special interplay. Drew is an incredible musician, with his ears always open. He’s able to support and propose ideas at the same time. As for Devin, he has the ability to play something unexpected that brings the music and the focus of the musicians to a higher level. Playing with them is so much fun because I don’t know what exactly is going to happen – and that’s what I’m looking for when improvising. I would describe the sound of this trio with an oxymoron: as something familiar that you didn’t know before.”

Santiago, born in 1988, graduated the from Conservatorio Manuel de Falla in Buenos Aires and moved to New York City in 2014 for a Masters in Jazz Performance at NYU. Along with teaching and serving as a piano accompanist here for Ballet Hispánico, he has played alongside such top New York figures as Billy Drummond and Dave Pietro, not to mention his collaborations with musicians from across Latin and South America. Prior to releasing Out of Orden, Santiago recorded two albums, Amón and Pendular, with an Argentine trio featuring bassist Maximiliano Kirszner and drummer Nicolás Politzer. Santiago’s latest album – Episodes, due from Fresh Sounds New Talent this summer – finds him alongside bassist Matt Pavolka and drummer Mark Ferber, to effervescent, even Monkish effect. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Motion by Lee Konitz.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Clics Modernos by Charly Garcia.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Joy Spring by the Bill Carrothers Trio – yes, I loved it.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Down by Law by John Lurie.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Several lately… Guillero Klein & Guachos at the Village Vanguard. The Ed Neumesiter Quartet at Ibeam. And the Francisco Mela Sextet plus the Dan Weiss Trio at Cornelia Street Café.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

As a listener, I really like venues where you can sit and have a sonic experience with no interruptions. Therefore, I don’t like those places where that isn’t happening.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“Let the material mature / waiting for the unforeseen / that it becomes necessary.” — Gerardo Gandini

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Wassily Kandinsky.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Body, rhythmic sense, ears.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My contact lenses.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

The New York City Jazz Record, for its supportive agenda.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Curiosity – as well as honesty and empathy.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

I admire so many people: friends and colleagues, as well as people I don’t know personally but I have read or listened to. It’s impossible to name them all. I admire someone when he or she inspires me somehow.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

It can be any board member of the International Monetary Fund because its mission seems to bring inequality and poverty to the world.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Tigre, the suburb of Buenos Aires: chill, sunny, relaxing.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

Late 1800s, early 1900s in Europe or Mexico. Or maybe New York City or Buenos Aires during the 1960s. 

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

La pesquisa by Juan Jose Saer. I don’t know the exact translation of the title, but it would be something like “The Inquiry.”

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Solaris, the original by Tarkovsky.

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss going to the record store and listening to different records, talking with the guy working there – that whole ritual of checking out music. And I look forward to a time when the people can actually make the decision of who runs their government.

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

Asado (Argentinian barbecue) made by my dad in a big, open space with friends and family.