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Spanish Jazz in Berlin

From Gijón to Berlin. César Latorre is a Spanish pianist who was born in the North of Spain, where he got his Bachelor Degree in Music. He left his country when he was 21 to study jazz in Amsterdam and, after residing seven years there, he moved to Berlin. When you ask him what he does for a living, he says he is a pianist, a composer, an arranger and a teacher. His first job as a musician was transcribing melodies for mobile phones and, since then, he has always worked with instruments, melodies and scores.

E&M: What did you expect of Berlin when you moved here?

Photo: Cesar Latorre
Streets of Berlin

César: I expected a city where I could feel good and I could have a piano at home. It wasn’t possible in the Netherlands. I wanted to make as much noise as I could. In Berlin I live with other musicians and we can practise together there, even with drums. At the beginning, it’s difficult to start a life in a new city, but the experience is great. I would even say it’s advisable.

E&M: Why did you decide to move to Berlin?

César: My professional career was good enough in Amsterdam. I had some contracts. Sometimes I played at parties, sometimes I played with my band, César Latorre Trio, or with María de Fátima, the fados singer. However, I never thought of Amsterdam as a permanent destination.

I got to know Berlin as an exchange student and I loved the city. Although I only spent three months there, I enjoyed its calmness and the sense of space. Searching for a flat was simple and prices were low in comparison to Paris, Madrid or other European capitals. There were a lot of cultural activities in every field. Finally, food was cheap and really tasty, and that makes life nicer.

E&M: Do you feel at home or do you feel like a foreigner in the German capital?

César: In Berlin I’m a foreigner. I don’t have any doubt about it. However, there are a lot of people who are in the same situation. The Spanish-speaking community is quite big, especially in Kreuzberg, where I live. Moreover, a lot of artists are constantly arriving to this city. I think that a home is a place where a person feels good. In that way, I think that Berlin is now my home, although the city where I was born (Gijón) is also my home.

Photo: Cesar Latorre
Better than a desk job!

E&M: How do you manage with German?

César: I speak a little German. I spend a lot of time travelling, so I haven’t focussed on learning it. When you’re looking for a job, German is extremely necessary, but if you speak English, you can do whatever you need in your daily life. However, I must say that there aren’t as many English-speaking people as there are in Amsterdam.

E&M: Do you keep in touch with your family and friends in Gijón?

César: Yes. The internet and digital communication make it easy. Moreover, I often travel to Asturias because of professional matters and holidays. When I arrive to Gijon, I call my friends and try to go out with them. Sometimes you aren’t able to keep the friendship, because you can’t keep in touch with everybody. If you leave your country, you lose some friends. However, you can find other people at your new place.

E&M: Which things do you miss from Spain?

César: Besides my family, I miss Gijón beach, food, kindness and how people live in Asturias. And, of course, I miss cider (the traditional drink in Asturias). I think that the Spanish quality of life, especially in Asturias, is quite good.

E&M: What is Berlin like for a musician? What did you find here that you didn’t find in Spain?

César: In Spain I’ve only lived in Gijón, so I can’t compare Berlin or Amsterdam with the whole of Spain. I believe that the arts are very developed in Spain. But living abroad, I have found a lot of resources for musical education and very good teachers. Maybe the most important thing I’ve found abroad is cultural exchange with my colleagues. In music and in life, sharing your thoughts and knowledge is very important. If you learn something and you share it with your colleagues, they’ll show you their viewpoints. If you’re in a class with people coming from three continents, you have the opportunity of doing that.

E&M: What’s César Latorre Trio?

César: CLTrio is my laboratory and my workplace. Three years ago I decided to look for musicians to make a band with a very personal sound. This was our long-term objective. Our intention is renewing our sound over and over again. A musician never stops learning and the best thing we have is working together to achieve this aim. I feel lucky, because we all share this dedication. This is one the most gratifying experiences that I have had as a musician.

E&M: CLTrio consists of three people who come from different countries. You are Spanish, Artis is Latvian and Petros is Greek. In your opinion, what does the mix of cultures provide to the band?

César: It provides everything. We have three different characters and our music is an expression of this combination. When we work with new material, everyone contributes their own perception and we try to develop a common line. Every musician has a wide range and our influences come from classical music, country, rock, traditional jazz, electronic music and, recently, heavy metal. Our drummer, Artis Orubs, has just started to play in a heavy metal band. Even I don’t know what it is going to happen on stage.

E&M: What would you miss if you had to leave Berlin?

César: I’d miss a lot of things… I’d miss falafel and kebab, getting everywhere by bike, restaurants, people having barbecues in the park, the mix of cultures, the sense of space, silent streets at night, the way people understand music and art and, of course, my friends. However, what I would miss most would be discovering new things in this city. Berlin is always changing and renewing itself. You’re always surprised.

E&M: Is Berlin your final destination? Are you planning to stay here for a long time?

César: As a musician, I expect to travel and show my music as much as possible. I think that the future of music is playing live, because recorded music is losing popularity. I don’t know if I will stay in Berlin for several years or forever. Nowadays, I am glad to be here.

For more information, visit César's website http://www.myspace.com/cesarlatorre.

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