El Movimiento

Composed of an all-star roster of Nashville’s leading jazz & world-music artists, El Movimiento (or "ElMo" as the band is affectionately referred to by its hometown fans) has in a few short years established itself as a sensation on Music City’s jazz scene.  The septet’s powerful and original sound and repertoire are the result of a unique partnership between a multi-cultural trio of accomplished instrumentalists and composers: Saxophonist and Nashville native Rahsaan Barber, Dominican percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez & Puerto-Rican trumpeter Imer Santiago.

Emerging modestly from a group of young creative musicians who gathered weekly at a coffee house to play music that transcended boundaries and categories, El Movimiento has dedicated itself to two inspiring missions:  To build on the heritage established by Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Machito and other Latin jazz giants and to incorporate into its sound contemporary influences like modern jazz, rock and other popular American styles. The ensemble has succeeded in satisfying die-hard Latin jazz fans and attracting a generation of younger listeners raised on the sounds of contemporary jazz, Latin pop, and soul.  This global approach to music-making has enabled El Movimiento to create an exciting, modern, jazz-influenced sound that synthesizes the best elements of African- and Latin-American musical traditions from the US, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, & Puerto Rico.

How do you describe your music to people, guys?
The term that best describes our band's sound might be "contemporary Latin jazz."  El Movimiento blends exciting Latin percussion, complex jazz harmonies, catchy melodies and on-the-spot improvisations featuring an excellent team of genre-crossing musicians," suggests saxophonist Rahsaan Barber.  Percussionist Giovanni Rodriguez adds, "This band has a soulfulness to it - an emphasis placed on communicating something meaningful to the listener through each and every note played."  Trumpeter Imer Santiago speaks to another quality of the "ElMo sound" - an emphasis on great melodic writing, adding, "There is definitely a vocal approach to the construction of each melody.  We favor memorable and emotive melodies.  We've got it right when we're singing it to ourselves three days after the gig. 

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
All three of us have been smitten with music for as long as we can remember! We all have benefited from the nurturing of loving families who supported our musical ambitions and exposed us to a wide variety of great music at an early age.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
We are thankful for the opportunities we've gotten to share this music with a wider audience.  Honestly, our best answer would be to do just that. So much effort, work and love (at the risk of sounding cliche) goes into each of our performances. To share that  with a receptive audience is an experience like no other.  To that end, we thank you for this opportunity to reach people who may not know about us yet!

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
At this point, it's two-fold! We've financed our debut record, The Movement, independently, and that can be pretty challenging at times.  Second, time-managment! We all have numerous major comittments (as teachers, performers and producers with other artists in addition to this group) which challenge us to continue to make the necessary sacrifices of time in order to ensure the band reaches its full potential.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

Rahsaan: As a child, I really didn't gravitate towards any particular passion. At an early age, playing and listening to music were passions of mine, but I didn't strongly consider the possibility of making a living in the field until college at Indiana University. If it makes any sense, I was too busy being a kid to think of what I was going to be when I wasn't a kid anymore!

Giovanni: I've always had a close relationship with music, but as a child I wanted to be a fireman, policeman..etc.. I didn't know being a musician was an option cause I didn't know any growing up..but it only made sense to do what came naturally.

Imer: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things, including a firefighter, a policeman, a weatherman. Music was just a hobby in elementary & middle school until I became more serious about it in high school. Eventually I decided to stick with the weatherman route and majored in meteorology and music in college.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?

Rahsaan: Nashville's supportive and great musicians have helped me immensely!

Giovanni: Since most of the "community" is full of musicians, I've learned and learn from them. I learn from eveyone, musicians or not. For me it's mainly a mindset kind of thing for me to get the vibe of my community 

Imer: The Nashville scene offers many styles of music every day of the year! As a result, there are various music flavors I've heard which serve as an inspiration to me as a composer & arranger. Also, whether as a bandleader or sideman, the greater Nashville community has been very supportive of attending shows in which I have performed. This has encouraged me to continue displaying my voice & gifts locally, nationally, & beyond.

What other artists out there do you love?

Rahsaan: I'll just cite a few "can't-live-withouts" to avoid an interminable list! Ray Charles, Kenny Garrett, Stevie Wonder, Astor Piazzolla, Sara and Rachel Caswell, and Mike Farris.

Giovanni: Some of my favorite artists: Juan Luis Guerra, Djavan, Mint Condition, YellowJackets, Rubén Blades, Hermeto Pascoal, Ivan Lins, Irakere, Mario Bauza, Papo Lucca & La Sonora Ponceña, Stevie Wonder, Clifford Brown, Jay Dee aka J Dilla, Lucho Gatica, Donny Hathaway, Nat King Cole...to name a few. And of course Quincy Jones & Michael Jackson.

Imer: I enjoy listening to a wide array of artists, from Jazz Favorites Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, & Freddie Hubbard, to modern Jazz artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, and Kenny Garrett. I also love listening to artists from other styles of music, including, but not limited to James Brown, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Ivan Lins, Marc Anthony, Hector Lavoe, U2, & MuteMath.

What does your future hold?

Rahsaan: I look forward to the opportunity to share music I am so very passionate about with a wider audience, and to do so with cherished friends. I also enjoy my full-time teaching at Belmont University. Lastly, I'm beginning to record material with a new band, Everyday Magic, for an upcoming album hopefully released later this year.

Giovanni: Only God knows, but I know it'll work itself out.

Imer: Currently, I am excited about ElMo's release, The Movement. It is getting good airplay on North American radio stations. I am excited about the possibility of traveling around the U.S. and abroad with the group. I am also looking forward to writing new music for my jazz quintet this summer.