As one of the leading lights of Chile’s jazz scene, tenor saxophonist Agustin Moya is a very in demand person. He teaches, composes, plays jazz and even with pop groups. At present, he is in the process of writing his fourth album, due to come out in late 2016 early 2017. Kreol Magazine caught up with Moya during his visit, in 2016, the Port-Au-Prince Jazz Festival in Haiti.

When asked about the content of his forthcoming album, Moya responded that he is currently “confused” about what will be on the record. “I’ve been working in a sextet, but now I’m beginning to write for a trio. I don’t know if I will do two albums, or mix it. I have to figure this out,” he said.

The switch to a trio was precipitated by his being asked to play at the Port-Au-Prince Jazz Festival in Haiti, where the organiser requested that he play in this format. As well as Moya on saxophone, the trio comprises a drummer, with whom Moya has collaborated over a 20 year period, and a young upright bass player.

Regardless of the precise instrumentation of the music on the forthcoming album, Moya seems confident that it will represent a step forward from his previous efforts.

“I play much better than my first album. Then, I just listened to modern guys like James Blake. They are great, but for the past five or six years I have been working with the tradition of jazz. I think I am more able to play freely with my own style.”

Each of his first three albums, Doble Viaje (2006), Infinito (2010), and Espacio Elástico (2012), were nominated for Chile’s Altazor Award. Moya’s next release should be essential listening for anyone who is interested in what’s happening in the world of Chilean jazz.

The musical development of Moya

Agustin Moya began learning music at the tender age of six. His decision to take up the saxophone, aged eight, was provoked by hearing Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, with its famous sax riff. In spite of these very early beginnings, Moya’s family is not a musical one. He is the only musician among his relatives, although his father was a famous Chilean actor, which does provide some connection to showbusiness.

Moya was a dedicated student of his instrument, at one point practising for up to eight hours a day. He now describes this level of obsession as being “too much”, although he still practises for at least three hours each day and often for four or five.

“You have to progress every day. I’ve been learning all the time. You can learn all day, something new. That is amazing to me.”

One of his early inspirations was the bossa nova music of the saxophonist, Stan Getz. As a teenager, however, his musical hero was Sonny Rollins. He explained, “When the first time I heard the saxophone colossus that was Sonny Rollins I was like, “wow, I want to play this shit!” Then I started to listen and transcribe him.”

Moya stated that he was currently listening to a lot of Lester Young and had returned full circle by listening again to Stan Getz, albeit to the player’s Be Bop recordings.

Having studied the saxophone in Chile, Moya moved to New York in order to further his musical education under David Liebman. He also spent time in Boston, studying with George Garzone. Moya says that, while Liebman and Garzone’s playing styles are not dissimilar, their approaches to teaching are miles apart. Liebman teaches, “the tradition of jazz, that you have to go to the source to play modern. Whereas George Garzone, he’s just modern.”

Moya also spent a few months studying in London towards the end of the nineties and has fond memories of visiting the 606 Club and Ronnie Scott’s. However, New York remains Moya’s favourite place to play jazz. He describes the city as “the goal for all jazz musicians”. Moya is currently seeking an artist’s visa in order to spend more time working in the USA.

Teaching commitments

In addition to his jazz playing, Moya teaches adults in his home town of Santiago de Chile to play jazz on saxophone and a range of different instruments. Like many musicians, the income from this kind of activity is necessary for him to live comfortably while still pursuing his career as a musician.

International venues

As a jazz player, Moya has toured around the world, with visits to places as far-flung as South Korea. He describes Haiti, the setting for this interview, as a fun place in which to play, although it is clearly a troubled country. While the hotel is comfortable, the poverty outside has clearly made an impression on the musician. “In Chile we have poor people, but here is worse. Too much,” he said, with sadness.

While Moya has been an international touring musician for some time, his activities have been curtailed somewhat over the past couple of years due to the arrival of his son, who is now two and a half. He said that he would be keen to see his son follow in his musical footsteps and thinks that he would make a natural drummer.

When asked if he would like to have more children, Moya replied, “No. One is OK.” It’s possible that the drumming could have had some influence on his thinking!