D.C. Pianist José André Montaño a Fearless Jazz Prodigy on His Technique to the Prime

For those who hear about José André Montaño performing anyplace in D.C., you’ll want to be in that room. 

Principally self-taught, he began taking part in piano at age 4. Now at age 18 and a rising senior on the Duke Ellington Faculty of the Arts, Montaño has carried out in D.C., across the U.S. and in a number of international locations. The truth that Montaño is blind has not interfered along with his drive to proceed creating his music abilities at a hard-driving tempo.  

I noticed Montaño lead his trio a few months in the past at Taste Backyard, a restaurant within the Van Ness space of Northwest, D.C. His trio included drummer Lenny Robinson and bassist Grant Lay.

“It was enjoyable to play with these cats,” stated Montaño. “We performed the primary set as the home band, then different musicians got here by. A few of my buddies from college had been there.”

Calling fellow musicians “cats” or “bros” is widespread when Montaño talks about collaborating with artists.

He’s snug with musicians of any age. 

The Love of Jazz 

Montaño is excited by a number of genres of music, however what drew him to jazz?

“Nicely, once I was somewhat child, I listened to lots of Miles Davis, particularly the tune ‘So What.’  I’ve cherished jazz since then,” Montaño stated. “I like the sensation of it and how one can work together and play what’s in your coronary heart. It’s a style to precise your self and improvise.”

With college and jazz gigs, Montaño has a busy schedule. Final 12 months, he carried out on the U.S. Division of Schooling with the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz (HHIJ) Peer-to-Peer Group. The scholars had been joined by U.S. Secretary of Schooling Dr. Miguel Cardona, who performed bongos with the group. 

This 12 months, Montaño turned a proper member of the HHIJ Peer-to-Peer Program. As a member of the 2023 sextet, Montaño and his highschool bandmates traveled to Richmond, Williamsburg, and Charlottesville, Virginia acting at excessive faculties, and discussing jazz with native college students. A live performance at D.C.’s historic Blues Alley wrapped up this 12 months’s tour.

The Peer-to-Peer program is headed by JB Dyas, Ph.D., vp for Schooling and Curriculum Improvement at HHIJ. He met Montaño final 12 months when he performed with college students who carried out with Cardona.

“José is an angel. He’s an instance of if you’re given a set of circumstances, you may have a call to make,” Dyas stated. “That call is to take that set of circumstances and shine or to permit your self to be encumbered by it. Nicely, he’s shining brilliant.” 

Carnegie Corridor and a European Tour 

This summer season, Montaño is within the prestigious NYO Jazz program. This jazz intensive is part of the historic Carnegie Corridor, the place 22 younger musicians ages 16–19 from throughout the U.S. are led by Inventive Director Sean Jones. 

Jones, a trumpeter and an educator at The John Hopkins College’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore, lately labored with Montaño as a mentor for this 12 months’s HHJI Peer-to-Peer Sextet. This week the group is in live performance at Carnegie Corridor with vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Nationwide Endowment for the Arts Jazz Grasp. NYO Jazz and Bridgewater will then tour Europe acting at a number of jazz festivals.

Montaño is often accompanied by one or each of his mother and father when he performs. Meaning in addition they hold a busy schedule. Giovanna and Roberto Montaño love seeing their son create magic along with his piano. They’ve been intent to make sure one of the best music educators encompass their son. That’s how they discovered pianist and composer Cyrus Chestnut who turned their son’s mentor.

Chestnut can be on the college at Howard College as a grasp teacher in jazz piano and improvisation. He started working with Montaño in 2014. 

Like everybody else who has encountered Montaño, Chestnut used the phrase “wonderful” a number of instances when describing his mentee. He described how Montaño can hearken to a bit of music and play it again with astonishing accuracy.  

“He has an insane ear. He can course of issues in a means that may be very particular,” Chestnut stated about his mentee. “He’s an excellent human being. In a short while, the entire world will have the ability to expertise that brilliance.”