Regular Gig: An Interview with Bobby Trujillo
Denver drummer and percussionist Bobby Trujillo leads the quartet SaZon, joined by co-leader Norma Tell, vocalist, Ed Stephan, guitar, and Joe Lopez, bass.
PF: Describe for us your early days as a professional musician—was there a period of struggle?
BT: When I was coming up, which was the ‘60s, there were lots of gigs; and that made a whole lot of difference whether you continue to play music or not. I can remember having five-nights-a-week gigs, so it wasn't a question of was I to continue playing or can I make a living at this. I remember playing a gig at an older club in Colorado Springs that lasted four years. That was not uncommon back then because there were a lot of venues, there were a lot of clubs. It was the 60s, and into the 70s; we were listening to Miles, and Miles was venturing into the crossover stuff with funk and jazz; and Herbie Hancock and all those cats were doing that. I continued to play all the time; one gig led to another (laughing).
I was playing funk. I was playing funk/jazz, and straight ahead jazz. Listening and learning; it was great. I never took gigs I didn't want to play just for the sake of making money—I never looked at music like that. Like, "I gotta make this gig" or "I gotta make this amount of bread so I could pay the rent." I never looked at music like that; music was always an opportunity to create.
PF: Were there any major transitions in your professional career in that decade of the 60s, and could you name a couple of places that you played often, and maybe a musician or two you were then collaborating with.
BT: I guess the major transition was going from playing funk and blues, transitioning to jazz. I came here to Denver from Colorado Springs in the early 70s; I played a lot of blues clubs with Sammy Mayfield. I played what was called the chitlin' circuit; I played all the after-hours joints—The Dahlia Club, The Horizon Club, The Shapes, 23rd Street East, all those places. You finished up your regular gig around one, one-thirty, and you would pack up and go play after-hours until four in the morning. It was great, because it was constant playing. In Denver I met people like Phil Urso, Bobby Greene, D Minor, Joe Keel, and Nat Yarbro. I had met Nat years before in Colorado Springs ... when I moved here to Denver, he was already living here, and that was a great influence on me. And people like Bruno Carr ... he turned me on to what to play and what not to play. I had a chance to play with guys who were much more advanced than I was. And, they don't run you off with "get outta here kid, and come back when you know how to play" because ... they tolerated me and taught me ... yeah, so it was definitely a transition for me and a great learning period.
PF: Tell us what you are currently doing professionally or what you have recently completed.
BT: About three years ago I formed a group with Norma Tell, who is a very fine vocalist ... from Santa Fe. She and I formed a group called "SaZon", which in Spanish means "to season, or add flavor to." We have a quartet ... we've been doing our own mini-concerts, if you will, at a place called "Garcias" in the Tech Center ... we bring in a special guest artist. We've had people like Rich Chiaralucci ... Kailin Yong on violin ... Rick Weingarten on vibes ... Al Herman on trombone ... Pete Olstad ... we do music depending on the instrument that we might be featuring ... with Rich we did music of great saxophone players like Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, "Trane." They (have) their own venue off to the side of the restaurant that holds about 120 people ... we send out notices and email (and) have an online ticket purchasing place. We hope to continue doing this.