Take a dash of Mexican rock, add in some punk, a shot of metal and a good helping of progressive rock. Mix with improvisational jazz and voilà—you have the makings for the unique musical offering known as Solo Picnic.

The Capilano University-bred group performed this July at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. The brainchild of Jazz Studies alumnus Jesus Caballero, Solo Picnic was among more than 30 Capilano University jazz musicians performing at this year’s fest—a “dream come true” for the talented drummer.

Caballero grew up in the coastal town of Coatzacoalcos in the southern state of Veracruz, Mexico. His family moved to Monterrey in central Mexico at the age of eight, living there for 16 years before moving to Vancouver, B.C.

Born to create art

It wasn’t only the well-known jazz musicians on faculty at Capilano U that attracted Caballero to the program. The openness to students writing and performing their own original work also sold him on the school.

“I wanted a new challenge,” Caballero says. “Jazz and improvised music is the highest peak a musician can get into.”

And, this unique composer has not been disappointed. After a recital at North Vancouver’s Presentation House, Caballero heard that Vancouver jazz bassist Clyde Reed had complimented his art, saying, “Jesus is a natural on the instrument—he was born to create art with it.”

“That’s when I knew I could go places,” says Caballero.

Being a drummer who composes is not as unusual as it may sound, Caballero says. “A lot of people assume drummers don’t have the ability to learn all the music theory and how to apply it,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to express myself musically. For me, there’s no better way to do so than playing my own compositions.”

Going (sort of) solo

However, leading a jazz band has been a unique experience. “I learned that most people in the jazz scene don’t stick together like a ‘regular’ band that wants to rehearse and play new material on a weekly basis,” Caballero says. “I decided to call my own original project Solo Picnic.”

With influences as broad as Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Elvin Jones, Solo Picnic’s “fiery” music performs Caballero’s original material with any mix and number of band members. The band just released their first album, 28 Years, this past September.

Solo Picnic been fortunate to be able to attract some of the best. The group’s Vancouver Jazz Festival performance included both Jared Burrows on guitar and Reed on bass, with Cap U alumna Emma Postl performing vocals and Bill Clark on trumpet.

Performing with Burrows, his former instructor and mentor, has been a privilege. “He understands my music,” Caballero says. “If I tell him I want the melody played in a certain way, he plays it—no questions asked. He has been a great mentor who reminds me of my mentor back in Mexico. They both encourage me to play and express myself to the fullest, no matter what other people say.”

A future so bright…

With experiences as diverse as performing as a drummer in Shrek the Musical, Caballero’s career is well on its way. Future plans include performing for film and television and a potential master’s degree as well.

At the moment, Caballero couldn’t be happier. “If listening to something I’ve never heard before is one of the things I enjoy the most in life, why wouldn’t I make a stranger feel the same about my music?”

“I’m playing the music I love with the people I admire.”

Submitted by Communications & Marketing

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