April is Jazz Apprecation Month, so this week we are appreciating our jazz musician teachers. Luis Mario Ochoa is a standout. Since 1990, he has toured with his band Cimarrón and recorded 3 hit albums. Throughout Canada, he has performed at major jazz festivals. Originally from Toronto, he currently resides in Miami to be with his family.
Mentor of the Week: Luis Mario Ochoa (Miami, FL)
Why did you make jazz your music style of choice?
I am not exactly a “jazz musician” even though that’s the musical language that supports most of my work. I would rather be defined as a musician with world, classical, and jazz influences.
What about jazz makes it unique to other music genres?
The improvisational side, the harmonic richness and the musicianship needed to excel at it.
How long have you been playing music for?
My father (a professional musician himself) was my first teacher when until I was 8 years old. Apparently, I took it so passionately that when I was 11, he put me in one of Havana’s most prestigious conservatories. That was how started my full-time music studies that culminated with a bachelor degree with a concentration of classical guitar 13 years later. I have not stopped learning since and I love transmitting that wealth of knowledge to my students. While in the conservatory I learned the European classics; at home, my father was keeping me grounded with popular Cuban, Brazilian, Argentinian and Mexican styles as well as jazz and how they all integrated together. I have been teaching privately since 1980 and a teacher at the Humber College School of Jazz in Toronto, Canada for 9 years where I conducted the College Latin Big Band.
Any one in jazz history you would really love to see perform?
I have been fortunate enough to perform with one of the greatest jazz icons of our time: saxophone and clarinet virtuoso and 15 times Grammy-winner Paquito D’Rivera! You can see a video of me performing as his special guest in the Jazz At Lincoln Centre.
You are also a restaurant owner; what kind of food do you make and what are its influences?
Bloom Restaurant style is Nuevo Latino, which is a fusion of Latin American and Spanish dishes with a North American haute cuisine twist.
Do you ever perform in front of your customers?
Perhaps once or twice every two years as a thank you token, but most likely you can catch me in a small concert hall or at a world/jazz festival.
Tell me about the proudest moment in your career.
I have way too many. It is wonderful to be respected and admired by your peers, but equally as great to see students that started music with me graduate from a university, Royal Conservatory or jazz college. Of course, being awarded and see an audience give a standing ovation or request an encore is a fantastic feeling too.