Follow @wuba
A Home for the City's 'Jazz-os'

by Matt Perse

“It’s got to be around here somewhere,” I thought. The sun had long since gone down, and as I approached microcentro, I could feel the streets narrowing in on me. Finally – Paraná. Now what was the damn number? A small sign guided my search for Paraná 340, home of Jazz y Pop, like a moth drawn to a flame.

The door opened not to a room, but instead to a set of stairs that lead perilously down. The first stop at the bottom of the stairs is a table, more of an old bar really, where you pay the cover – if there happens to be one that night…or if they happen to care enough to charge you. By the time I found a seat at one of the tables, which are separated by only centimeters of space, I realized that despite the wind and cold outside I had managed to work up a pretty decent sweat. I ordered a drink, and while I waited took a minute to look around the room. It is littered with photos and artifacts that jazz-os have left behind over the years.

Between wiping the hair out off my face and the sweat off my forehead, I noticed the umbrellas hanging in the corners. “To stop the leaks,” someone explained. Looking up at the ceiling, with its peeled-drywall ceiling and clumsy plumbing – neither of which have ever seen the light of day – I wondered if the remark held some truth. Before I knew it, my drink had come, and like a shot to the arm, I heard the music. Of course, the music! It had been pulsating from the center of the room ever since I had arrived. Then I realized that the cats are not so much on a stage as they are literally arranged at floor-level in the middle of the room. And they were really cooking.

A Home for the City's 'Jazz-os'

“El Negro” Gonzalez, the owner of the club, is like an open book. I was fortunate enough to sit down with him after the second set, and he was kind enough to give me a personal history of a club that was more famous than I had ever thought. El Negro, as he’s known, is an older guy of short stature with a balding head and a kind face. For El Negro, there is just music. A bassist himself, El Negro has been around music, both as a musician and a bar-owner, nearly his whole life. In the mid-sixties, he first thought about starting a boliche. The idea was that he’d take just a “pedacito” of the “torta de música.” That is, just a “piece of the pie.” He dreamed of creating a club that a musician would like, a sort of insider’s joint where improvisation and informality would dictate the mood; he never cared so much about making money off the idea. He quickly added, “Though some money would be good. That way I could get a new house piano.”

Though jazz was popular at the time, rock, blues, and folk were also welcome in the club. They all came, just as they still do, to jam. The nightly jam sessions became renowned within the local music scene. And it didn’t take long for word to spread from Buenos Aires. Musicians from all over the world have stopped in for a jam session. Some years ago, El Negro told me, a giant smile spreading across his face, there came two American sailors from San Francisco to the club. Upon their return to the states, they stopped in another jazz joint and ran into none other than Chick Corea, who was about to head south for a tour. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Corea famously electrified jazz, first with Miles Davis and then on his own. He helped spawn a branch of jazz known as “fusion,” which blends traditional jazz instruments and forms – like trumpets, drums, and bass – with instruments that were just coming into their own at the time – like the electric guitar, electric keyboard and piano, and synthesizer. When Corea arrived in Buenos Aires, he sought out El Negro and Jazz y Pop, solely for the privilege of taking part in one of the already-famous jam sessions. In keeping with the “rules” of the place, he didn’t ask El Negro for any money for having “made an appearance.” Instead, El Negro said, Corea expressed his gratitude for having been allowed to jam. El Negro jokingly wondered if Corea would stop by the club while he was in town the week of June 3.

Both the sense of informality and welcome are perhaps Jazz y Pop’s most defining characteristics. Despite deteriorating relationships with his two original business partners, which eventually forced him out of a share of the ownership, El Negro managed to keep his concept of a “musicians’ boliche” alive in various locations over the years. And only recently, he explained, did he move into the location on Paraná. Surprisingly, all the location changes did not affect El Negro’s ability to draw a crowd. For El Negro, ever the consummate musician and fan of the arts, having musicians come to his club to jam has always been “like inviting people over to your house.”

The place definitely feels like home, and not just because of the way it looks or the way El Negro treats it like his home, but also because he lets you treat it like your home. The cover, when El Negro decides to have one, goes almost exclusively to the musicians; he makes his modest profit on food and beer, which he keeps in a kitchen that is not unlike the one in your own house. There is no dishwasher, no matching silverware or dinner sets, and the food seems to magically appear out of beautiful stainless steel freezers and fridges – probably from the ‘40s. When El Negro is enjoying the music and not tending to customers himself, you’d swear that his servers are actually patrons who felt like getting up and helping out.


A Home for the City's 'Jazz-os'

El Negro furnishes no pretenses, and does not insist on much beyond that his customers respect the music. That is, listen to it and enjoy it. He is a minimalist in that sense. The most important thing, he maintains, is that the musicians are comfortable and that they feel at home so that they might express themselves more freely. He always hated clubs where the people who came to listen to music didn’t actually listen to the music, but instead chatted away. “I’m a musician,” he says throughout our conversation. “So I think of the musicians first.”

These days, Jazz y Pop is almost exclusively jazz, and Mondays are reserved for big bands. El Negro would advertise the place, but besides not being able to afford it, it’s just not his style. “It would ruin the place,” he explains.

Che Polo Welcomes 2nd South American Bike Polo Tournament
Damas Represent at this Year's BAFIM
Ladies of New Folklore Live
Extranjeros #5 - Liza
A Day with Bandoleiro
Video Premiere for Olga's "Avalancha de Sonrisas"
Extranjeros #4 - Adélaïde
Skateboarding in Alpargatas: A Visit to the Republic of Mataderos
Chili Arrives to Buenos Aires
Daisy Gate
"Listen Online, Buy It at Mercurio"
Video Premiere for Chancha Vía Circuito's "Amelia"
The Mixed Grill
Future Sounds of Buenos Aires
WUBA Releases First Print Edition
Extranjeros #3 - Gabi
Lulacruza Releases Road Trip Documentary "Esperando el Tsunami"
An Interview with Rolando Bruno, or How to be a Modern Sandro de America?
Moacir, For the Love of Music
Extranjeros #2 - Evy
Discovering the City Through a Lens
Diary of an Unsophisticated Girl at a Sophisticated Film Festival
Toto la Momposina, Queen of the Cumbia
Bomba Estereo Returns to Buenos Aires
Listen to: Paloma del Cerro
Border Hopping: Astro releases first LP
Extranjeros #1 - Estefanía and Paz
Los Hermanos McKenzie present "Siamés"
Javi Punga, The People´s Singer
Sofía Viola, This Year´s Revelation
My Favorite Night Out: La Fiesta Muda
Val Veneto, Making the Dancefloor Vibrate
Organic City, Pt. V: Green Guerrillas
Party with WUBA
Happy Sundays at the Vuela el Pez
Tomi Lebrero, A Voice for the Curious Porteño
Catnapp, Breakin' All the Rules
Passionaria: Passionately Losing Control with Soema Montenegro
Countdown to Universo Kerpel
Niños en Casting
Organic City, Pt. IV: Community Tune-Up at La Fabricicleta
A Street Art Renaissance
They Call Him Lolo
Pompeya Shakes Up Winter
Fede Lamas and Mónica Heller open BRUTAL
The Bondies present their album "Stereotrip"
Mind Blowing Circus? Yes.
WUBA RADIO: Vol. III - The Lulacruza Mixtape
Behind the Scenes with Flamboyant Paradise
Los Labios
A Night with Marc Van der Aa
Springlizard, Acoustic Dreams
Organic City, Pt. III: Recycled Art at the CC Recoleta
Dietrich Takes Over the IMPA
Systema Solar Closes "Colombian Invasion" Series
Viva Elástico, Pop´s Little Beast
WUBA RADIO: VOL. II - Free Music Weekend
WUBA Raffles Tickets to Bag Raiders
WUBA RADIO: VOL. I - The Colombian Invasion
On Sale & Delivering - Tranq - al - Gatas!
Sidestepper Kicks Off Colombian Invasion
Ulises Conti - Little Concerts
Lustre - A Live Cinema Experience
Late Night Bike Tales
The New Queen Bee
Hippies and Happenings at the MALBA
The Importance of Singing Falsete
Vincent Moon - Temporary Buenos Aires
Kumbia Queers Are Back with New Album !
The Art of Therapy
When All That's Left is a Loaf of Stale Bread
Organic City, Pt. II: A Piece of the Country in the Middle of the City
ZZK's Tremor Brings the Future Sounds of Buenos Aires to WOMEX *Updated!
San Telmo's Secret
Ulises Conti: On the Frontier
The History of Fire
Little Concerts for a Single Listener
The Digital Underground
Dreams for Sale
Be A Part of a Record Label - Support Buenos Aires Emerging Culture!
The Time Bomb
A Film from the Other Side of the Tracks
Between Love and a Hard Place
ArteBA - A Few Observations
ArteBA - Who Said the Art World is Stuffy
Tremor's Search for Sounds
Agriculture in an Art Space?
Lysergic Cumbia
Photographic Paintings
Dirty Dancefloor
Organic City
If You Build It...
Buenos Aires plus Cape Town equals Cross Cultural Fun
Unreal Night @ Aula Magna
Limbo Fest Second Edition
FeatBA Launches
Adelantados: Primal Scream Journei
The (BA) Expat Hustle 2.0
Down by Hipodromo: Illustrating Queer Structures & Actors in Buenos Aires
Tranqui Yanqui Keeps it Rockin
Villa Diamante releases "Empacho Digital"
La Internacional Argentina
Graffitimundo Opens in Buenos Aires
Behind the books: Eloisa Cartonera interview
Casa L'Inc
Zizek Club Hits North America Again
Get Out! With WUBA & The Herald
Mamushka Dogs - Indie en la City
Style Me Buenos Aires - My First BAF
Whats Up Santiago
Riding as a Collective
History and the Universe
Festival Buen Dia WUBA & ZZK Style
Twitter With Us
Chillaxeando w/ Animal Collective
Tremor Drops ZZK Mixtape Vol. 5 & Plays Zizek Club Tonight!
Argentine Urban Art @ You - Part 2
Lola Arias & Ulises Conti: Straight to the heart.
Tranqui Yanqui
Argentine Urban Art @ You
King Kerpel
Get Up on Argentina´s Illustrators, Street Artists & Graphic Designers
Zizek North American Summer Tour
Buck Hunter and the Pig City Porkrollers
Desde Buenos Aires Argentinaaaaaaaaaaaa...El Hijo de la Cumbiaaaaaaa
Gulliver: an artist at the door.
Street Food Buenos Aires - Whats Up?
Barrio Chino - A Weekend of Flavors & Images
Lines, Points, Music, Videos!
Nuevo World Order
Da Rin & Estol @ Benzacar
Zizek on Tour - Starts Today!
The Art of Todd Shalom
Sucio - Tropicore Mix
WUBA Turns 3!
New Rave Made in Argentina
Pop-Art in the Pink House
Puta in loveyou* (clothes, not sex)
Shakespeare was Argentine
Living with a Porteño Roomate - Part 2
Advanced Mixology 101
Fran Di Gianni Mix: Yo Soy Así
No al Cierre de Ciudad Abierta
BASE-V @ Hollywood in Cambodia
Disco Shawn´s Argentine Sabbatical
Refusenik Mix: Kold Krussian
Daleduro is Taking Over
Diplo @ Zizek This Wednesday!
Festival Season a Comin
BsAs by Moise Torne
Zizek Blows Out 1 Year Candle
Chau Old Site!
Living with a Porteño Roomate
Mercado del Progreso