MEMBERS & INSTRUMENTS: Cuco Lopez (saxophone, flute); John Goldman (trumpet); Jim Salisbury (drums); Andy Seaborn (bass); Bryan McAllister (piano).
CITIES OF ORIGIN: Claremont, Ontario, Fullerton, North Hollywood.
KINDRED SPIRITS: All the Blue Note and Impulse musicians from jazz’s heyday, plus the very best in Latin jazz. (And there are even nods to the great classical composers here, too.)
Cuco Lopez, band leader of the Refugio Jazz Quartet, is upbeat about his latest musical endeavors. Though his band usually performs as a Latin jazz ensemble or a more straightahead affair, this Sunday’s gig will find Lopez and company stepping outside their regular songbook.
The group will play a collection of standards, but the set will also feature nine experimental jazz compositions by Riff Revillas. For Lopez, such change is about making musical progress.
“When you’re listening to it, you’re thinking this is another step forward,” he says. “It’s not repeating what’s already been in the past or what’s going on, but it’s just enough where it’s still acceptable to the ear…and I have confidence that it’s going to work out.”
It’s that confidence that brought Lopez back to the stage—something he didn’t initially have. Lopez says he started playing the flute and saxophone as a teenager in Texas, performing throughout his 20s. However, at 31, he pulled the plug.
“I felt inferior as a musician,” he says. “I felt like I didn’t have what it takes…Some of the musicians at that time were so great—Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie. How could anybody be as good as these guys?”
It wasn’t until a couple decades had passed—plus the retirement from his profession—that Lopez was able to rebuild his ambition and return to playing jazz.
“The second time, I said, I guess I’ll do it,” he recalls. “I’m just going to keep on doing it. It was a change of attitude.”
This change found Lopez forming the Refugio Jazz Quartet around the age of 50. Some ten years into the band, Lopez is still perfecting his wares, including the recent addition of a pianist (making this quintet a “quartet” in name only).
“When you get older, you get to a point where you start looking at your life, and you’ll say, ‘Hey, man, I’m on my way out, this is it,’” he says. “So I wanted to do something that I always wanted to do, that had passed me by—I always wanted to be a musician and I always wanted to play jazz.” (Waleed Rashidi)
The Refugio Jazz Quartet at the Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue, 502 W. 1st St., Claremont, (909) 447-6700; www.hipkittyjazz.com. Sun, 8PM.