Not so long ago, before this mess called pandemic, Mérida had an evening dedicated to arts and culture: La Noche Blanca (White Night). Museums, galleries, and theaters opened their doors at noon, stages were set up in the parks, and the streets were filled with artists of all ages. There was a sea of people, young and old, enjoying free events. Nights like this, magical? Not so many. Where people gathered, a must-see place to wander. Did you catch a distant melody? If I was hooked, I had to find the source; this is how I had my first encounter with Merida Big Band at Casa Montejo.
Who was I with? It’s a very vague memory. More striking was a packed venue, meeting an iconic teacher and his wife and, of course, the jazz and swing repertoire we enjoyed that night. This response from the crowd, this positive atmosphere, is a regular thing when we talk about Merida Big Band.
Merida Big Band is a large format orchestra, unique in the Mexican southeast, which saw its first days twelve years ago. “I always had the desire to make a big band,” Ranier Pucheux, founder of Merida Big Band, shared with me. This is a dream that originated in his years as a student at the National School of Arts in his native Cuba. There, he came into contact with the Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove, and Ravi Coltrane big band, which had been created specifically for a jazz course at the institution.
“I was fascinated by that sound and I always had a thorn in my side about playing in one,” he added.
Later, when he joined the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra (where he continues to play as a co-principal clarinetist), he marveled at the quality of the brass players in it. With them and other local musicians, Ranier decided to embark on the project that today we can witness at festivals and public and private events. You can also see them accompanying artists such as Natalia Lafourcade and Elizabeth Meza, and they even accompanied Armando Manzanero.
As big band connoisseurs will imagine, Merida Big Band specializes in jazz and swing. They began playing music from the ’40s, which was the golden age of this format. Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington are some of the names included in this initial repertoire. Subsequently, they have integrated pieces by other musicians, such as Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé. However, as its founder explained to me, you can use it for everything: funk, blues, instrumental music, among others.
Looking to the future
Ranier Pucheux has big plans for the future: to record an album, either with unreleased works or with arrangements specially commissioned for his big band. If we talk about arrangers, let me tell you that he has a few very much on his mind.
In the meantime, you can enjoy their extraordinary interpretation of jazz and swing at the events open to the public. The closest one is the Full Moon Jazz Festival at Villas Wayak, which will take place this March 19. This is an evening to benefit the Telchac Education Program; tickets are available through Villas Wayak.
Tel. 999 218 5330
FB: Merida Big Band by Ranier Pucheux
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Ranier Pucheux for its use in Yucatán Today.
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