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2019 Chicago Jazz Festival Preview: Q&A with Camila Meza

By Hrayr Attarian

Guitarist and vocalist Camila Meza is also a gifted songwriter and composer as is demonstrated on her charming and brilliant 2019 release, Ambar. A native of Chile, Meza melds jazz sensibilities with her own folk music heritage, resulting in a vibrant spontaneity and delightful lyricism. She will lead her Nectar Orchestra on Sunday, September 1, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. She gave us a glimpse of her show through a brief email interview.

Hrayr Attarian: We are fortunate to have you headline at the Chicago Jazz Festival this year and thank you for answering these questions. We would like to give the prospective audience an idea of what to expect at your September 1 concert. Is this your first time performing at the festival or around Chicago, either as a headliner or as part of another band?

Camila Meza: It’s my first time playing at the festival, but my fourth or fifth time playing in Chicago. I’ve done mostly gigs as a sidewoman with trombonist Ryan Keberle & Catharsis. This would be the first time bringing my own band to the area.

HA: What can we expect to hear at your festival performance: Will you only feature pieces from your captivating new album, Ambar, or will you also play other tunes?

CM: We definitely want to put focus on showcasing the new material since it’s been just a few months from its release and I’m excited for people to hear this music. We sometimes like throwing in a song from my quartet album Traces to add diversity, but we’re enjoying playing Ambar live and experiencing the different places it can take us.

HA: On the recording, Nectar Orchestra consists of a jazz rhythm trio of Eden Ladin on piano/keyboard, Noam Weisenberg on bass, and Keita Ogawa on drums/percussion, along with a classical string quartet. Will this be the instrumentation on the festival, and will it be the same players as on the album?

CM: That will be the instrumentation. In this case Glenn Zaleski will be on piano and Ziv Ravitz will be on drums. We’ll be featuring a string quartet from Chicago, 3 + 1 [String] Quartet, led by Lee Joiner.

HA: How did you come up with the name “Nectar Orchestra”?

CM: It actually came up through group brainstorming; we did go through a lot of funny options. Suddenly the word “nectar” clicked, it sounded good along with “orchestra” and it gave a feeling of “we’re here to soothe you,” which in one way or another became a musical purpose for me with this album.

HA: What are your artistic plans for the near future?

CM: I have a lot of projects in mind. I recently presented an hour of new music commissioned by The Jazz Gallery in New York City, called Portal. I see a lot of potential for this piece; I hope to be able to collaborate with a visual artist and dancers to make it an interdisciplinary work. I’m also researching Chilean music for a project based on that repertoire.

Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra perform Sunday, September 1, at 5:25 p.m. at Pritzker Pavilion. Click here for more information.

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