Bassist Miquel Álvarez M.M. ’21 Blends Flamenco and Jazz in the Studio
During his time at Berklee Valencia, Miquel Álvarez M.M. ’21 was a musician in demand. Alongside his studies and compositions, Álvarez played with a constantly changing stream of musicians, each with their own styles, genres, and sounds, which he says helped him develop as a bass player and musician.
“I was totally full when I was at Berklee. All the students needed a bassist for their final project. It was great,” he says.
Students who play bass are a rare breed. For an avowed bass lover like Álvarez, this is hard to understand; but he’s grateful that it creates a raft of opportunities for those who play four strings.
Yet while music has always been part of his heritage and a passion for Álvarez, the bass was not his first choice. Growing up in Valencia, which has a strong tradition of music, he was inspired by his grandfather, who played the tuba in his local marching band; Álvarez began playing the trumpet at age 6.
As Álvarez grew up, his tastes changed, leading one teacher to suggest he try something new. By chance, his father spotted a poster for electric bass classes. From the first lesson, Álvarez was hooked.
From the age of 12, Álvarez honed his skills, combining the music of his homeland, flamenco, with traditional genres, such as jazz and Latin, among others. Still, he credits Berklee for helping him adjust to life as a professional musician.
Álvarez says that the structure, schedules, and deadlines helped him to become more organized; as a result, he finds it much easier to manage his life and musical commitments, which are many.
In addition to helping him hone his musicianship and organizational skills, Álvarez says that his time at Berklee gave him an entirely new set of technical skills in recording, making, and protecting his music.
“I was recording albums, recording things, and doing projects before Berklee,” he says. “But when I finished, I understood how to use Pro Tools and the studio. I understood management, laws, and contracts.”
“There are a lot of things that are important in the life of an artist,” says Álvarez, adding that these critical issues often go unmentioned. At Berklee, there is a focus on the entire music-making process, which Álvarez loved learning.
Since graduation, Álvarez has pursued a successful career as a touring musician, producer, and writer. His first major project was to write and release the album Martinete to Trane, an ambitious work combining jazz and flamenco to tremendous effect.
Shortly after Álvarez's graduation, the album was recorded in a single session in late October 2021 at Jazztone Studios in Valencia. The record features Álvarez himself on double bass (and as band leader) alongside Perico Sambeat on alto and soprano sax, Albert Sanz on piano, Sergio Martínez on cajón and percussion, Juan Antonio Jiménez, on palmas, and Andreu Pitarch on drums. Guest vocalist Rafael Vargas contributed to four tracks, while Javier Vercher played the tenor sax on two.
Despite taking only a day to record, the album was three years in the making. “I'm a super slow composer,” adds Álvarez, something he hopes to improve on his next album. The composition will again combine flamenco and jazz but with a bigger ensemble. “My last album had five players and a singer. But we will have nine in this new project and then the singer,” he says.
While pursuing his career, Álvarez has maintained his Berklee connection, recording albums with Berklee faculty Perico Sambeat and Albert Sanz and his big band.
An established live musician, Álvarez calendar is packed. During the summer months, when the major jazz and flamenco festivals occur, he plays three or four times a week, sometimes more.
He has also shared the stage with several acclaimed international jazz and flamenco artists such as Jim Rotondi, Agustin Carbonell “el bola,” Toni Belenguer, Latino Blanco, Alberto Palau, Alex Conde, Voro Garcia, and Enrique Oliver. “Sharing time, music, and experiences with some of my idols is one of the most incredible things that could have happened to me when it comes to music,” says Álvarez. “I feel very lucky, and at the same time I feel a great respect and care for the music. You can see how, in the end, everyone is here to learn, enjoy, and leave the world a little better than when you came.