Esteban Alvarez release La Bikina
Once in a generation there is a composer who comes along and touches us with their message, and while the language and tone of that message shifts with the current trends in pop culture, the statement behind it has always remained the same: we are one united people existing together on a single planet, bound by little more than blood and a sense of creativity that keeps us chasing after love, life and self-fulfillment. Esteban Alvarez has lived quite a life as a songwriter and a creative personality, and up until now, much of his work has gone without receiving the credit that it is so deserving of. Perhaps finally, with his new album Piano Meets Mariachi, critics will start to appreciate a man who is affecting the growth of an entire genre like few others of his generation.
“La Bikina,” the first single from Piano Meets Mariachi, is a spellbinding song that acts as an opulent salutation from south of the border, encompassing a supple variety of jazz and orchestral influences. His graduate-level fine arts training is more than evident in this latest effort, and longtime followers of Esteban will recognize some of his most memorable time signatures making an appearance on this track, tweaked slightly for a more radio-ready appeal. I think that “La Bikina,” as immaculately designed as it is, could easily find a home on specialty radio in the United States and abroad if given the right opportunities to find its audience. One of my biggest complaints about critical reviews of Esteban up until this point of his career has been journalists’ complete tone deafness to this gentleman’s overwhelming jazz influences. He doesn’t wear them on his sleeve, but buried deep within the foundations of his compositional approach is a devoted adherence to the old school of jazz theory. We learn all the rules just to break them. We constantly challenge ourselves and our notion of what harmony really is. If there’s a chance to do something different than those who came before us, we take it. In this respect, I’d put Esteban on the level of the Duke, and that isn’t something I would ever imply with just evidence to support it.
Piano Meets Mariachi is going to upset a lot of people in the classical establishment with its pop-gloss production values, but I for one think it’s a refreshing take on a style that needs some cosmetic updates going into the next decade. With the look, the feel and the sound of a man of the future, Esteban Alvarez seems very poised to plant his flag atop the mountain of post-millennium composers that he has been climbing since he was only nine years old. It couldn’t be better for classical and pop music in general, and rather than trying to sell listeners on the relevance of Esteban, I implore critics to give some of his previous work a second listen. There’s so much more to this artist than we’ve ever given him attention for, and it’s about time we start atoning for that.