Memoria Uno, kind of experiment in conducted improvisation – the interview with Iván González

Andrzej Nowak (

According to Ramon Prats, directly from the sleeve of “Sons of Liberty. Live at Grannolers”, by the special orchestra Memoria Uno: “Perseverance, commitment, insistence and talent are a constant in Ivána González’ conductions, and themselves an explanation of the art and mystery of his music. It's unique nature and inner complexities lead us to exhilarating and addictive situations impossible to reach by any other means. A delicate equilibrium between composition and improvisation that sometimes lasts only a few but priceless seconds, where the roles of performer, improviser, composer and conductor are in constant change”.

Now look what the musician would like to say.

"Sons Of Liberty" is the third Memoria Uno record. Are you proud of it? Which was the difference for you in creating this music and creating previous music published on "Crisis" and "Cook for Butch"?

I'm so proud of "Sons of Liberty". Not just for the fact that, in my opinion, it is a great and special record, but because is the best concert I've made in the last two years, featuring musicians and friends who I deeply admire.

This concert was very especial to me for different reasons. It was the first concert I made with Memoria Uno at Jazz Festival, a fact that does not usually happen. And to play with Johannes Nastesjo and Christer Bothen, who came exclusively from Sweden and Denmark that day was a huge gift to me.

I met Christer the year before in Barcelona at a gig and we had an special connection. Christer recorded for a long time due to music of Don Cherry, a musician and trumpet player who inspired me a lot and I deeply admire. For me, to be able to work with him has been one of the most grateful experiences of my live so far.

To count on Agustí Fernández, Albert Cirera and Pablo Rega was a great privilege. With them I've discovered the concept and a bit of the technique of the "conduction". It is thanks to them that today I'm still practising this concept. This kind of anecdotes make this recording one of the most important I've made until now to me.

The diference between "Sons of Liberty", "Crisis" and "Cook for Butch" is the moment when were realized. There is an especial context in each of these recordings, a unique moment. And each of these three recordings has his own story. But if I had to highlight something between them I would say "Sons of Liberty" has been recorded with an audience, so it's the only one made in a real concert situation.

Could you describe your coming to stay a musician and next – to be improviser and director of improvisation?

I am in touch with music since I was 8. The entire way to here shaped bit by bit my aesthethic my tastes and my way to play and listen to music. I started playing classical music at the conservatory of my natal city, Malaga, combining this studies with the marching band. Later, influenced by my friends, I got into the world of "soul", "funk" and "jazz". I had to move to Barcelona to deepen in jazz studies, and that's where I got my music degree (at Liceo's Conservatory in Barcelona).

In Barcelona I met a great number of musicians and friends who have influenced me a lot, my tastes and concerns were changing almost without realizing it. Just for the sake of curiosity I started going to free improvisation concerts, and I have to say that this completely changed my concept of music and improvisation.

Each time I was more assiduous to this kind of concerts. Specifically I enjoyed every Thursday “Duot” at Robadors. So I started buying CD’s and going to the few existing concerts in Barcelona, until the day when Ramon Prats offered me to play at Robadors with Tom Chant, Alex Reviriego and himself. Althought I was terrified of playing with them and improvise, I accepted. At the beginning I was uncomfortable and restrained, but but with time and practice I started to find my place and, the most important, it made me discover myself.
Since then I've been playing with them every Thursday. It is the best masterclass I’ve ever received. That experience changed me completely and since then I've been following this path.

My contact with the conduction started throught “Free Art Ensemble” and Agustí Fernández. We invited Agustí for some gigs in Barcelona. There was when he introduce and teach us the art of conduction and how it works. We played with him in some concerts and we finished the tour recordering our first album “Free Art Ensemble + Agustí Fernández”.
At the middle of the experience with Agustí, Albert Cirera invited me to listen in concert the “ Banda de Improvisadores de Barcelona” conducted by Pablo Rega. There, and after that concert, was when I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to conducting. It was the first time I enjoyed a gig like this. I couldn’t believe, it seemed that everything was writted, but it wasn’t. It was pure improvisation. This experienced was the clue to begin my investigations about conducting and conducted improvisation. Memoria Uno is the result, in a certly way, of all of my experience

Please, indicate your main music occupations outside Memoria Uno.

I conduct in a Marching Band and also I teach trumpet to childrens of families with economic difficulties  at a public school in Barcelona.  I participe in different bands and groups of the city and I have several projects on, which I have some gigs. Völga, Free Art Three, Martin Leiton Big Band, Toni Vaquer Big Band, Kamarilla and Silver Geishas are some of the bands I participe freqüently. In another hand, I play at the Improvising Sessions organized by Ramon Prats in Robadors, and El Pricto with Discordian Records at Soda Acustic Club.

Do you listen music of other large improvised ensembles? Which? What is the special inspiration for you?

I've been all my life listening to and playing in all kinds of large ensembles, bands, orchestra, big bands, improvisation orchestra, etc...but if I have to mention in inspiration context, I'll  say the London Improviser Orchestra, Sun Ra Archestra, Mats Gustafsson’ Nu Ensemble, Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet... I've seen live the Agustí Fernández Celebration Ensemble, Barry Guy's New Orchestra and Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, just to name a few. But without doubt the one I've been listening the most and made the biggest influence is Butch Morris, with his Nublu Orchestra and the large number of conductions he has edited.

Could you tell us about another recordings of Memoria Uno, waiting to edit? And about next step to develope this music idea?

Right now I am finishing the edition of a Memoria Uno disc, recorded in February 2017 with Discordian Records. It was not a recording session. It was a concert in the second edition of Improfest (improvisation fest), located in Barcelona featuring local groups since a couple of years ago. The performance was my conduction number 100 and soon it will be edited in digital and physical format. It is a kind of special formation , with three drums, electric bass, two double basses, two electric guitars, two laptops, five saxophones, flute, clarinet and voice. We are still working in the design and the mastering, but it will be released around the end of October 2017. The next step is not clear now, but for sure I will keep experimenting with different formations and doing performances around Barcelona. I would like to record and work more with the orchestra that I played in Lisboa  last time that I was there with Albert Cirera. Thanks to him we could perform in ZBD music hall. Despite the short time I was there it was an amazing experience, and I'm looking forward to work again with them. The ensemble name is "Sings of Freedom", and most of the components are really good improvisation musicians from the Portugal scene. I hope to perform again with them in February/March in Lisboa, but everything is still an uncertainty.

And the difficult question. Could you tell us about funding that big music project like Memoria Uno?  And about chance to play music outside the Barcelona? Maybe in Poland?

The funding of Memoria Uno is complex and simple at the same time. I pay for everything. I pay for everything related with the disc, recording, mixing, design, physical copies, etc. but I should say that I’m not alone and all the musicians and the friends help in that project, with the design or food and transport expense. Otherwise, it will be impossible. Most of the performances we did end with a negative balance, because it is not a formation with a fixed number of people, it changes every performance and because I just pay a suitable salary two times, one in the jazz festival in Granollers , and I made the disc “Sons of Liberty”, and other in the jazz festival in Vic with “Cook for Butch”. The rest of the performances that we did in Barcelona where “door money”. Even if we don't like it, all that we earn in the show we divide by the musician in equal parts.

To be clear, the project is alive because there is a huge effort behind and a really clear target: to experiment in the free improvisation and the conduction contexts. We would like to perform more often and with better conditions, but that's not possible at the moment. About Memoria Uno out of Barcelona, it is possible because there is not a fix formation, it works more like a big community headed by me. Unless we want a specific formation like “Cook for Butch” or “Sons of Liberty”. In that case we have to pay food, transport, accommodation, fees, … and it is not easy because of the amount of musician that we are, and because we are not so popular to make someone put money in our project. In general, the most of the time that I have performed outside Barcelona it has been with local musicians,  like in Lisboa with the orchestra that I said before and with “Orquesta Raras Musicas de Madrid” with Ricardo Tejero and Javier Entonado. For sure, it is not the same to play with musicians that you don't know, because you have a small time to know them and make a language that can help us to understand each other in the performance. With the musicians that I familiar with its different, because I know them and they know my language and understand where I want to go. But, for me, both of the options are interesting and challenging, it is like an adventure for me.

I am willing to go to Poland any time hahaha, i just need to know place and time, but if you want the formation “Sons of Liberty” we need to talk about the conditions. I've been in contact with “Krakow Improviser Orquestra” to perform on June but it was no possible at the end. I am looking forward to go to Poland and perform with a big ensemble, and it won’t be long. Maybe we will see each other soon, this is what I wish and hope.

Ivan, thanks for the conversation.

The editor of „Sons Of Liberty. Live at Granollers” is Multikulti Project/ Spontaneous Music Tribune Series. In this series The Völga Quartet with participation of Ivan Gonzalez is also released.