Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #28 — Angelica Sanchez

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

(Angelica Sanchez performing at Greenwich House. Photo: Eliseo Cardona.)

Into what’s now the seventh season of Sound It Out, pianist-composer Angelica Sanchez has become a series favorite in myriad settings – including helping to kick off the first weekend of this seventh season by playing duo-piano with the great Marilyn Crispell for a packed house on September 22, 2018. This week, on September 26, she returns for an encore performance at the head of the Angelica Sanchez Nonet, which first played the series in September 2016. She has written a kaleidoscopic book of music for this all-star Nonet, which features Thomas Heberer (trumpet), Kenny Warren (cornet), Chris Speed (tenor saxophone), Michaël Attias (alto saxophone), Ben Goldberg (clarinets), Omar Tamez (guitar), John Hebert (bass) and Sam Ospovat (drums).

Angie has also twice performed for Sound It Out in a duo with iconic trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, with one of those evenings seeing her do double duty by leading a powerhouse trio with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Another night saw her play both solo and with her trio Magico (featuring guitarist Omar Tamez and French hornist Vincent Chancey), and there was another concert where she performed alongside Tamez as the duo Tierra Mesitza and in a trio with Attias and trumpeter Ralph Alessi. That’s not to mention a fantastic evening when Angie reunited with saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey for their much-missed collective trio. Drawn to the warmth and calm of the Greenwich House room and the beauty of its Steinway pianos, Angie has made a lot of wonderful music for Sound It Out.

Born in 1972, Angie was raised in Phoenix, moving to New York City in 1995 and, later, to Jersey City. Over the years, she has recorded an exceptional string of albums as a leader/co-leader, with the most recent being Float the Edge with Formanek and Sorey (Clean Feed, 2017). She and Wadada Leo Smith documented their duo on Twine Forest (Clean Feed, 2014). New York City Jazz Record chose the Angelica Sanchez Quintet album Wires & Moss (Clean Feed) – featuring Malaby, Rainey, bassist Drew Gress and guitarist Marc Ducret – as one of best releases of 2012, just as it did the band’s previous album, Life Between (Clean Feed), in 2009. Angie’s album A Little House (Clean Feed, 2011) presented pieces for both grand piano and toy piano. In 2003, she released the quartet disc Mirror Me (Omnitone); the All Music Guide review of Mirror Me said, aptly, that her “compelling music always offers ‘the sound of surprise,’ as Whitney Balliett so eloquently described the most memorable jazz.” Angie has also lately recorded as a duo with Tamez, releasing the albums Días de Sol and Floresta (both on Nonjazz Records). And a couple of my very favorite albums are the two all-improv volumes of Alive in Brooklyn, featuring Angie on buzzing, funky Wurlitzer electric piano in the trio with Malaby and Rainey, recorded live at Brooklyn’s Barbès in 2004.

JazzTimes has praised Angie’s “provocative writing… full of evocative harmonies,” something that listeners will really be able to hear with her compositions for the Nonet on Sept. 28. And The New York Times, summing up her art nicely, has said: “In her piano playing as well as her compositions, Angelica Sanchez seeks out the lyrical heartbeat within any avant-garde storm.” — BB

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

There are so many loves, but when I was 12 my father hipped me to Getz/Gilberto, and I’ve been in love with the music of Brazil ever since. Also in the running was an album my father didn’t care for, Miles Smiles – that record changed my life. After I heard it, I spent all my time trying to figure out what they were doing, and this began a lifelong obsession with Mr. Herbie Hancock.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

No idea. Even when I hear a recording I don’t like, there is something I can learn from it.

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

I love the music of Chico Buarque, and his album Construção, from 1971, is one of my all-time favorites. But Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Cat Steven’s Tea for the Tillerman have been favorites for years, too.

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

Mary Lou Williams’ Zoning – I love this record. She was truly a visionary who kept pushing the boundaries her whole life.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

I love Bernard Hermann – you always know it’s him with you hear his music. I also love how Ligeti’s Atmosphères was used in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I also love the melodies of Ennio Morricone. His theme to Cinema Paradiso is one I have always remembered.

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

I’m always in love with music. But the last concert that I really loved was in April 2017 with Pierre-Laurent Aimard  playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with the Munich Philharmonic, conducted by Valery Gergiev, at NJPAC in Newark. I love the opening with the contrabass bassoon, and Aimard is one of my all-time favorite pianists.

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

Any quiet place with a great piano and an audience.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

I want to make music so beautiful it’s like hugging in the forest at night, rise to the occasion and maybe go right over it, ’cause my energy’s burning – and I can make it with nothing but my brains and my hands and my heart. And when that stops beating, I’ll know I pressed it to the limit and be ready to go down happy.” — Hampton Hawes

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

Joan Miró.

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

Listening, Listening, listening.

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

I love my car – it takes me places. But I suppose I could live without it… I guess electricity is important, too!

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

Just friends, really.

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

Honesty and patience.

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

I have to list two: My mother and father. They are the most caring and honest people, who sacrificed everything for their children. They’re a big inspiration to me.

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

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico – beautiful, quiet beaches.

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

I’m pretty happy to be here now. It would be interesting to live 200 years in the future. That is, if “we” are still here.

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

Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. I remember how excited I was when I first read those short stories.

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

Viridiana by Luis Buñuel. I have seen many of his films, and I always feel a little changed afterward. I love how deep he pulls you in.

  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 exist?

I do my best to be in the now, but I have to admit I liked the world more before cell phones and hand-held technology existed. It’s like being at the airport all the time – everyone’s mind is somewhere else other than where they are. People feel the need to document everything, but sometimes it’s nice to just try to remember.

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

Tamales, beans, rice and homemade tortillas made by my mom.