Guillermo Calliero - The strong, silent type
I’m always intrigued by people I can’t read from the get-go. They’re like a magnet to the always-inquisitive people person that I am:) The first time we met him, multi-award winning trumpet player and composer Guillermo Calliero was playing his latest project S.A.P (South American Project) at Campari Milano. My husband and I were catching up with a friend, so I must admit, my focus wasn’t really on the music, though S.A.P truly is a spectacular project, objectively.
That being said, at one point during our conversation, I had to stop talking and turn around when a gorgeous piano-trumpet duet caught my ear. I love when a song can do that to the audience, where suddenly, everyone goes quiet, people actually put their forks down and look up in awe. It’s magical every time… This one was soulful, delicate, cleanly played, nothing was out of place or excessive. It was perfectly paced and so much melancholy…the type of song that makes you cry, and boy am I a sucker for these! I think it was at that moment that I knew this city was going to offer the amazing music I had so longed to discover, but so far, had looked for in all the wrong places before moving to Barcelona.
So, why, do you ask, was it hard for me to read Guillermo? When they finished their set that night, we were introduced by our friend and without any hesitation, friendly hyper me enthusiastically asked about the song they had just closed the set with. That’s when Guillermo gave me a look that I could only interpret as condescending, and with the tone of voice you’d expect with that attitude, he said it was a famous Argentinian song by *insert said famous Argentinian composer*. I’ll let you imagine the kind of first impression that left me with.
Weeks went by until we met again at one of my favorite jam sessions - the Jamboree jam, and to my great surprise, Guillermo grabbed his trumpet and joined us on stage for a jazz standard. That’s where I understood why my first impression was wrong. You see, the overly used quote of ‘Music is a universal language’ may sound cheesy, but it does hold some truth. In French, we have a clear distinction between the words ‘langue’ and ‘langage’. The first one refers to the spoken language of a country/community, while the latter refers to the act of communicating, which, at times, isn’t even verbal. In English, sadly, there is no such distinction.
It seems to me that with people like Guillermo, rational, spoken language is only a barrier to communication. He’ll show you his appreciation and fondness by playing with you, by opening a musical dialogue with you on stage. There is something to be said about this unspoken understanding shared between musicians. We don’t always need the words to communicate. It’s just there. That shared moment and fragment of my soul, my stories, my past, my dreams, my wishes and you doing the same. You do the same, and in the space of a shared song or concert or project, we make something with our hands, literally, except it’s not a thing made of clay or wood. You can’t touch it. It doesn’t weigh between your fingers, it has no color, smell or taste. But it's undeniable. It exists, and you feel it in your bones, especially if the synergy was right during the performance.
I got to jam with Calliero on several other occasions, all of which only confirmed my wish to work with him. You see, as a vocalist, I feel very connected to the trumpet in particular, more so than with other wind instruments, and I’ve had the chance to share the stage with some spectacular trumpet players over the years, which made me all the more discerning of each musician’s sound, their phrasing, how they tell their side of the story.
Guillermo Calliero plays long, lingering melancholic notes - the kind where you feel the artist’s soul is being ripped from their chest. He’s got incredible control and support, he paces himself and takes his time with each phrase. That being said, the guy manages to remain effortlessly chill and laid back on stage, whether he's playing a soulful bolero or the most complex bebop tune. As long he's got his eyes closed and 'lets his soul speak' as he says, your ears are in for a delicious treat.
His albums truly reflect that consistency in the quality and the versatility of his playing. Whether paying tribute to the likes of El Gardel, Enrico Rava, Piazzolla or Ivan Lins, he manages to give the songs an undeniable timeless and contemporary quality. When it comes to his own compositions, Calliero's songs are colorful, full of quirkiness, beautifully upbeat and cheerful. He's clearly found a great partner in Federico Mazzanti whose sense of harmonies and arrangements definitely got him on my radar for my own upcoming projects. Check out their work on S.A.P Volume 1 here.