Gustavo Matamoros and the mysteries (and possibilities) of sound


Performance artist Pat Oleszko as the Lizard Queen in “Paranormal” from “And Sometimes . . .The Space is Full of a Previous Space” by Gustavo Matamoras at Deering Estate. (Photo by Ricardo Matamoros)

We live surrounded by sound, much of it muted by habit and routine — the drumming on keyboards, the glissandi of elevators, the humming of a refrigerator, the accents and rhythms in nature. Gustavo Matamoros hears it — and summons its possibilities

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and living in Miami since 1979, Matamoros is a one-person R&D department in South Florida’s musical landscape. As a composer, curator, and sound artist, his work has featured a broad range of devices and strategies, from conventional instruments and the musical saw to electronics, tape, installations, text, and video.


Composer, curator, and sound artist Gustavo Matamoros working at Bridge Red Studios in North Miami. (Photo courtesy of Rene Barge)

He is also the founder and director of Subtropics, an organization dedicated to “the creation, public presentation, documentation, discussion, and publication of experimental music and sound-based intermedia.”

Subtropics’ flagship event is the Subtropics Festival in Miami. It was founded in 1989 and held annually until 2007 when it became a biennial gathering. Last year it celebrated its 25th edition. But Subtropics has also produced programs such as the Audiotheque  (2012-2018), a sound-based art and performance experience at Matamoros’ studio at ArtCenter South Florida (now Oolite Arts ), and the Listening Gallery (2010-2015), which offered sound art in a public art setting. It operated from the facade at 800 Lincoln Road and was complemented by a video installation piece.

“Art is about discovery. Then the results of those experiments become available for people to experience. These events are experiments, but I do them to build awareness about sound,” says Matamoros. “For me, the experience of sound is most important, and it’s both a tool for enjoyment and understanding life. Life speaks to us through sound.”

Beginning Thursday, Sept. 1, Subtropics and the historic Deering Estate are presenting “And Sometimes . . . The Space is Full of a Previous Space,” a four-part series created by Matamoros, who is a current Deering Estate artist-in-residence. It features experimental multimedia collaborations that include site-specific recordings, new pieces, and a retrospective of Subtropics’ work over the years. The event takes place indoors at the Deering Estate Visitor Center theater.

“When you get off the beaten path, you really have no idea what you’re going to find, so it’s work that’s very challenging to package,” says Matamoros. “I’m not an impresario or anything like that. I’m simply an artist motivated to create a community around this weird stuff that I do. I’m thinking about exploring sound, not making a product, so after 30 years of work, I don’t even have a CD. So, what I thought I’d do this time is work around four things that might result in something concrete.”

The opening evening, “Indivisibles,” is inspired by making a CD,  he explains. “It’s going to be an intermedia exploration of the tracks that David Dunn and I have put together, recordings from 30 years of making music, for this limited-edition art album CD, released by Subtropics Editions. It’s a kind of retrospective. We’ll play the tracks in four channels and have projections of the visual interpretations (that) Ralph Provisero, a local artist, made of each of the tracks.”


“Coincidence,” a drawing by collaborator Ralph Provisero, was created for the audio track of the same name in “Indivisibles” in collaboration with David Dunn. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

From its inception, the idea of “And Sometimes . . .” was “to create excuses for collaboration with other artists,” says Matamoros. The second evening, on Thursday, Sept. 8, entitled “Pin Pan Pun” is a collaboration with Miami-based composer Jose Hernández Sánchez. “We met a few years ago, and he’s been composing really interesting works with theatrical elements, combining video with the sound.”

He notes that “Paranormal,” the third installment in the series on Thursday, Sept. 15, draws from the mythology of the place. “When you visit the Richmond House, on the second floor, they have a whole room with documentation of what people claim to be paranormal activity in the house. It’s part of the history of Deering Estate,” explains Matamoros. “So, we went in and made a 24-hour recording at the mansion, at a very high sampling rate. That means that we recorded sounds that were beyond the threshold of our hearing. When the sound is that high, you have to slow it down three or four octaves before you start hearing something — we then picked from what we found and made an installation with those sounds.”

The evening will also feature performance artist Pat Olesko, and filmmaker Ricardo Matamoros, Gustavo’s brother, who lives in Germany.


From left, Freddy Jouwayed, filmmaker Ricardo Matamoros, performance artist Pat Oleszko, and intermedia composers José Hernández Sánchez and Gustavo Matamoros, commissioned artist, preparing “Paranormal,”  the third installment in the four-part series “And Sometimes . . . The Space is Full of a Previous Space” at Deering Estate, Miami on Thursdays in September. (Photo courtesy of Claudia Arano)

“We started discussing expanding this idea for “Paranormal” to a format in which we would have images and maybe even performance. So, we got the ball rolling. Pat created these characters like ‘Army guy’ with eight arms and decided to see where it will take us. We might end up making a movie of it.”

The closing performance, “And Sometimes . . .There Is More,” on Thursday, Sept. 22, highlights content from Subtropic’s archive featured in an audio-visual setting designed and performed by Freddy Jouwayed and Rodrigo Arcaya. “I want to find new ways to repurpose and present some of that material,” says Matamoros. “I don’t want all this work just to live in our archives.”

This story was first posted by Artburst Miami

Recordings: Carlos Averhoff Jr. Worthy Tribute

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Together. Honoring My Father.

Carlos Averhoff Jr.


In Together Honoring My Father (Sunnyside), saxophonist Carlos Averhoff Jr. pays tribute to his late father, Cuban saxophonist and educator Carlos Averhoff, and resumes an interrupted conversation.

At Averhoff Sr.’s passing in December 2016, the two had begun to collaborate on a recording. It’s hardly a big leap to see it as more than just a musical project. The notes accompanying the release talk of how Averhoff Jr. “did not get much direct instruction from his father” and how “the relationship between father and son strained when the elder Averhoff left Cuba, finally settling [in 1997] in Miami.” But in 2006, Averhoff Jr., then 26, moved to Miami, and father and son got to work together a few times. Two years later, Averhoff Jr. moved on to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory and grow his professional career in a more welcoming jazz environment.

Eight years passed, and father and son agreed to work on a project together. There were some sessions in 2016, but the Averhoffs managed to record together only one track. When Averhoff Sr. died, the album seemed to die with him. But in December 2020, Carlos Jr. decided to complete it.

In the process, Together, which started as a father-son collaboration became a memorial.

Averhoff Sr. was an excellent player best known as a member of the Afro Cuban jazz-rock small big band Irakere. As part of a fearsome front line that at one point included trumpeters Jorge Varona and Arturo Sandoval, and reedman Paquito D’Rivera, Averhoff might have been overlooked by some. But his tone, impeccable technique, and on-point soloing were indispensable to the group’s sound. Written by Averhoff Jr., it should come as no surprise that “Sequence For You,” the opening track in Together, is a tribute to Irakere. It features pianist Chucho Valdés, the band’s founder, principal composer, and arranger, and saxophonist German Velasco and trumpeter Juan Munguia, two Averhoff Sr. bandmates on Irakere. Valdés offers a  fiery, expansive introduction and later returns for a solo brimming with urgency. Carlos Sr. would have smiled at the fireworks of the unison passages, played fast, precisely, and with swing on the fly — an Irakere trademark.

Averhoff Jr. has a muscular, virile tone with a hint of a rough edge — but he’s a heavyweight with a dancer’s feet. He contributes five of the eight pieces, including the title track, which, with its jagged, angular melody and eccentric rhythms (an echo of “the elder’s sense of humor,” suggest the accompanying notes), plays like a variation on a Monk tune.

There’s also an elegant but streetwise conga, “Oriented Conga.” Here the tenor and flute soloing by Averhoff Jr. and Orlando “Maraca” Valle suggest a sort of yin and yang of power and lightness. As for other highlights, Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” gets a forceful, probing reading with special mentions to pianist Jim Gasior, and drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.

Together ends at the beginning: with a reading of Charlie Parker’s classic “Donna Lee ” featuring Carlos Sr. on soprano and his son on tenor (we hear Averhoff Sr. saying “Vamos,” Let’s go, to launch the tune). Arranged by the elder Averhoff with an Afro Cuban groove, a bop feel, and melodic hairpin turns played fast in octave unison, this “Donna Lee” would not have been out of place on an Irakere set.

If the proper response to a poem is a poem, perhaps the appropriate tribute to an excellent musician (especially one who happens to be your father) is music well-played, with heart and flawless technique. In Together, Carlos Averhoff Jr. pays a proper homage and more.

An edited version of this review appeared in the summer 2022 issue of JAZZIZ magazine

Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera’s Reunion in Miami Celebrates a Lifetime in Music


Chucho Valdés, piano; Armando Gola, bass; Paquito D’Rivera, sax; Diego Urcola, trumpet; Dafnis Prieto, drums, and Roberto Jr. Vizcaíno, percussion, at the Arsht Center, Miami, Saturday. Photo Fernando González ©  

From the moment it was scheduled, it was clear that the stop of Paquito D’Rivera and Chucho Valdés reunion tour at the Arsht Center in Miami, FL, would be a special date. “There’s only one other place this would be even more special,” said D’Rivera early on. Nothing more needed to be said. Many in the Cuban community here grew up on the island listening to the phenomenal Irakere, the group Valdés co-founded, directed, and for which he was the principal composer and arranger, and in which D’Rivera was a key player and composer. After more than 40 years of separation, these old friends were getting to perform together again, and the expectation was musical brilliance wrapped in a feel-good story — and that’s how it played out.

Ably supported by an excellent group featuring Diego Urcola on trumpet and valve trombone, Armando Gola on acoustic and electric bass, Dafnis Prieto on drums, and Roberto Jr. Vizcaíno on percussion, D’Rivera and Valdés didn’t settle for warm and fuzzy nostalgia. Instead, they used their telepathic communication to probe old favorites (“Mambo Influenciado,” “Claudia”) and a handful of new pieces; salute Venezuelan music (a dazzling guest turn by cuatro virtuoso Jorge Glem) and merrily wander off into “what-the-heck-let’s-try-this” improvisations. Their Mozart tribute invoked classical themes, turned them into blues calls, became a danzón, involved the audience in a singalong, and somehow found its way back to a, well, let’s call it a Caribbean Mozart, as irreverent as the old master was purported to be.


Still, notable, given the setting, the emotional charge surrounding this reunion, and the license to overplay from an adoring audience, was how the music, not individual look-at-me virtuoso displays, remained the message throughout the evening. Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera became lifelong friends, in part, because of a deep, shared love of music — and that’s what they celebrated: The music.

It seems an obvious and simple choice but, especially in these me-me times, it’s not.

Chucho and Paquito’s concert in Miami Saturday was a treat.