Spotlight On: A Series on Culture & the Arts

“Spotlight On” is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on all things cultural & artistic in Xela and Guatemala. This month’s topic is: Soltura Jazz

Who: Soltura Jazz

What: A group of musicians in Xela who have pooled their talent to play classic jazz together. The group is led by Fernando Juárez, who plays saxophone and flute. Elliot Morales is on guitar, Jose Luis Cabrera plays the upright bass, and Emanuel Luis plays percussion.

Soltura Jazz goes back to the roots of jazz, improvising while covering melodies we all know, such as “Take Five”, and also incorporating classic sounds of swing, blues, and bassa nova. As proof of their range and versatility, the band members have other music projects in addition to Soltura Jazz. Fernando also leads Sombrero Negro, a gypsy-style rumba band, and Emauel Luis also plays drums for Majuana, Xela’s very own latin rock band. 

Soltura Jazz has been playing together for approximately four years. According to Fernando, the idea was to introduce the concept of jazz to the public in the form of live music in Xela. He strongly believes that the philosophy of jazz is sharing with other musicians. He says, “We always have the goal of sharing this space with others. We invite all musical talent to join us.” 

The musicians have indeed achieved the art of improvisational sharing. On keyboard was guest performer Michael Gilbert, who lives in New York City and works as a professional pianist. Michael is here in Xela for several weeks taking Spanish classes. He got in contact with the band as soon as he found out about it. Having never played together before, the four band members and their guest carried on fluidly and without pause, as if they had been playing together for years. Although some spoken language barriers hinder conversation between them, they connect on a musical level. Michael notes, “playing jazz music with other musicians is indeed an international language. It cuts across all language barriers.” Perhaps jazz is the native tongue of all five of these musicians.

To hear Soltura Jazz for yourself, visit Royal Paris on a Saturday night. Get there before 9pm or make reservations, as tables tend to fill up, and bring an appetite, as the menu offers an impressive selection of French-style cuisine. Try the grilled vegetarian sandwich de Sarten, and recommended for chilly nights is the Grog, a hot totti beverage with honey, lime, and rum.

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