Antonio Sanchez composes jazz-rock anthems that celebrate immigrant journeys | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Antonio Sanchez composes jazz-rock anthems that celebrate immigrant journeys


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The most immediately striking aspect of Antonio Sanchez’s music is its lush, cinematic feel, which the drummer also demonstrates in the percussion-only music he composed for the 2014 film Birdman. A native of Mexico City, Sanchez began playing drums at age five, and after performing professionally in rock, jazz, and Latin bands in his teens, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1994 to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Since then, he’s put out a slew of records by his own projects and with the Pat Metheny Group, which he joined in 2002. On his newer releases, Sanchez takes an explicit political stance in his storytelling, which is most pronounced on his eighth album under his own name, January’s Lines in the Sand, recorded with his band Migration. Its six tracks operate in a jazz context as a quintessential set of protest anthems, starting with “Travesía” (a Spanish word that means “crossing” and “journey”), which mixes sirens with murmured collages of phrases spoken by immigrants stopped by border patrols. The epic pieces reel between impulse and respite, desolation and hope, driven by Sanchez’s formidable drumming, which invokes the beat of immigrants’ steps down a long, unknown road. It’ll be thrilling to see how Sanchez brings it all together onstage: he’s joined by bassist Orlando le Flemming, saxophonist Chase Baird, pianist John Escreet, and singer Thana Alexa, who adds ethereal, mostly wordless vocals. In his promotional materials for the tour, Sanchez describes feeling “completely repulsed by what the United States is doing to immigrants—especially to people coming from the South.” By titling another song “Bad Hombres y Mujeres” and highlighting the stories of the men and women dehumanized and mistreated by our government, he draws his own musical lines in the sand. His stance can be summed up by just a few words from “Blood Country,” a poem by Mexican-American activist Jonathan Mendoza that’s incorporated into the album’s title track: “I pledge allegiance to the music we make from our survival.”   v

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