During the military dictatorship that lasted from 1976-83, the creative and intellectual scenes of Argentina were regarded as conspiratorial bastions of sedition that fomented opposition against the government. Thus, the Ministry of the Interior decided to “eradicate subversion” by censoring books and blacklisting artists, and free expression remained ‘free’ as long as it was officially approved.
With the restoration of democracy, though, the cultural heart of Argentina resumed beating. Exiled authors returned to the country, cinema saw a renaissance, independent plays premiered in official theatres — and Jazzología was born.
On Tuesday, 4th September, 1984, Carlos Inzillo founded the Jazzología concert series in the hopes of “spreading jazz music in all its forms around Argentina.” In an era when the genre was losing popularity in front of advances made by rock and pop, the idea seemed ambitious enough without even considering how the jazz scene had all but disappeared in the previous seven years.
“Originally we just did it as a test to see what would happen,” said the 67-year old self-described jazz aficionado, social psychologist, journalist, and musician. “We didn’t know if an audience would come and listen or if artists would come play.”
But a resurgence was in order.
Jazz had a long-standing presence in Argentina and many still remembered Oscar Alemán picking jazz beats on his guitar and pianist Enrique Villegas playing spontaneous notes in the style of Duke Ellington.
While classical orchestras demanded precise rhythmic and metered sounds, jazz was an improvised musical genre that seemed to bear a striking resemblance to Argentina itself. By definition, it was constantly being invented and reinvented, but always managed to stay true to its form— and even if it was a little edgy at points, it was ultimately harmonious.
Playing jazz infused with blues, swing, klezmer and Latin rhythms, grand soloists and bands turned the series into a cornerstone of Argentine jazz in a short period of time, and Jazzología began attracting famed musicians from the world over including Betty Carter, the New Jungle Orchestra, Conrad Herwig and Chuck Wayne, among many others.
Best of all, the concert series has always been free and open to the public.
“The fact that we have had continued financial support from the ever-changing city governments is somewhat of a miracle,” agreed Inzillo, who still seems to be in disbelief that his vision has been so successful.
Twenty-eight years after the first concert took place though, audience members and artists still come to the concert series in their masses.
“Now we don’t have enough seats and we turn away musicians because there aren’t enough Tuesdays in the year,” says Inzillo.