Cesareo Garasa

“Live music in general – jazz and otherwise – needs to offer something to audiences other than just the act of existing.”

S: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from?

CG: My name is Cesareo Garasa. I’m the main drummer for The Jay Smith Group for the last few years and I was also the co-producer on our last album, “Too Many Notes” (2015). I’m originally from Lancaster, CA but consider Bakersfield my hometown. I’ve played in many bands in the Central Valley and beyond, since 1989; most prominently with Mento Buru since 1991.

S: Did you study music? What was your major or emphasis? Do you plan to continue your career with music?

CG: I did study music and am a full-time drum instructor here in Bakersfield. I love my career in music and have no plans on leaving it.

S: What style of music do you play?

CG: Whatever style the gig requires.

S: Does music run in your family?

CG: Not really. My sister sings and plays music as well as DJs in the Bay Area but the two of us are the only immediate family, that I know of, that plays music.

S: Where do you draw your inspiration from in regards to playing and producing music?

CG: The inspiration comes from the songs themselves. The hope is that we can all reach and optimize every song’s potential. Reaching a mind-meld and not just carrying a musical dialogue with each other but the music feeling like another member of the band. If we succeed, the music blooms and transcends itself by hitting an emotional peak that will hopefully affect the listener as well as the musicians.

In terms of producing, the goal and inspiration is in getting the best possible representation of a where a song is trying to get to, both sonically and emotionally. It’s in trying to capture the ultimate representation, the big picture, of who the musicians are and what they had to say at the time. 

S: How long have you been performing music?

CG: Closing in on 30 years.

S: What projects are you currently involved in? 

CG: Mento Buru (Latin, reggae,ska, funk party band), The Iron Outlaws (punk, country, doo-wop), Vince Galindo & Country Deluxe (vintage country and western), Cholo Biafra (1970:1980s punk rock tribute), Crimson Skye (prog rock-influences neo-soul), Disco Sundae (disco and funk tribute) and You Got Petty (a Tom Petty tribute band that features Visalia’s own Kris Korsgaden).

S: What do you think is the status of jazz today? What do you think is the status of jazz in the Central Valley?

CG: It’s no different than most other genres: it’s all about having something that audiences want to hear you say. You could have the most brilliant musicians playing together that will never find themselves clicking with audiences. And you can also have three musicians barely out of the garage that change lives.

It’s in the doing and it’s in the chemistry that makes that alchemy happen. It’s tough competing for people’s shortened attention spans but not impossible. I never try to second-guess what the public wants because I’ve proven myself wrong too many times. 

Live music in general – jazz and otherwise – needs to offer something to audiences other than just the act of existing. Something to merit the enthusiasm and urgency needed for people to get their faces off their phones, off their couches, in their cars driving through construction and touchy weather to go to venues that might be optimal or not… to listen.

S: What do you think is the future of jazz?

CG: A greater inclusion of gospel music and esoteric harmonic complexity, neither being necessarily exclusive to each other. Personally, I’d like to hear a resurgence of sonic textures and mood more than muscular displays of skill and ability. The death of the nonsense ideal that choosing to say less is because you lack something to say.

Interview by Stephanie Barraza