Lokkal- todo SMA
Playing With Gil

by Bob Stern

"I have good news and bad news," my wife Daphne informed me.

"The good news: I was the only bidder for a 10 day stay in Mexico and got a real bargain. The bad news: I'm clueless about what or where this town San Miguel de Allende is."

Nothing like an impulse buy at a benefit auction!

Thus began our first San Miguel adventure 20 plus years ago. Like many of you reading this, we were totally enamored by SMA and promised ourselves that we'd return for longer -- at some point in the future (to wit, when we became "empty nesters" with no pets).

That point was 2011, when we booked a rental house for a month in San Miguel.

Being a professionally obsessed musician/violinist/fiddler, I came prepared for 4 weeks of practicing in Paradise. Daphne, an artist, came prepared not only to paint, but to dive more deeply into the masterful Mexican artistry around her. She had ample opportunities to both experience and study, as there were so many artists, galleries and workshops open. But what was there musically for me?

I inquired -- "What musician must I hear while in San Miguel?" One name kept coming up: Gil Gutierrez. It wasn't too difficult to find him. In fact, the night after our arrival, Gil was scheduled to play at The Instituto Allende with well-known jazz guitarist Jaime Valle.

After hearing their first spectacular set, I summoned up the courage (consisting of three margaritas I had consumed) to talk with the duo during their break. I offered that I was a jazz fiddler who knew some of the tunes they played and...

"Would you mind if I sat in with you for a few tunes next gig?"

Gil did an instant assessment and said, "Sure....we're playing at The Restaurant on Diez de Sollano tomorrow. Come."

From Gil's puckish look, he probably figured -- good, bad or ugly -- it was going to be entertaining.

Jaime had a different look on his face. I knew THAT look. After all, I had rolled my eyes many times myself. How often had some inebriated guy stumbled up to tell me HIS PLAYING was what my band ought to have?

Ah, there is bracing courage in tequila!

Next night, I ate dinner with fiddle case at my feet. After a few tunes, I was invited up to play familiar tunes I had heard the night before. No problemo.

As a finale, Jaime chose one I had never played: "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise". They took it at a breakneck tempo. Oh great -- Jaime gave me a look--"let's see what you can do with THIS, buddy!"

OK. I've been here before. Desperation is as at least as motivating as inspiration

Fortunately, I brought a portable recorder to capture that night. And, I still enjoy hearing the first time Gil, Jaime and I played together. The best parts for me are when Gil utters a surprised and encouraging "Yeah!" during my survival solo on "Softly....".

And the recorder captured Jaime talking to the audience at the end, admiringly crediting "Mr. Gil Gutierrez" on guitar – and giving me a sardonic credit:

"Please give it up for Dr. Bob Stern -- on vacation with his violin."

I've been returning to play in San Miguel every year since.

You can catch Gil, his world class musical friends -- and me-- at Mi Casa Bistro at the Instituto Allende on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And don't miss the music, food and drink at Gil's spectacular venue Zandunga (exactly 10.5 km on the Road to Jalpa) every Sunday.

Te veo alli.

Listen to Blackbird - Gil and Bob live in Mexico


Bob Stern has been playing violin for over 50 years, performing in multiple styles, from Baroque music to country, rock and jazz, both live and in studios. He has been a featured artists with classical harpsichordist Linda Burman Hall, rock guitarist Jerry Miller (Moby Grape), German jazz composer Christian Ludwig Mayer, Texas bluesman Charlie Prichard, percussionist Michael Spiro, singers Laura Branigan, Joe Thomas and Gary Burr, producers Arif Marden, Joshua Thompson, Harold Kleiner, among others.

You must register and log in to write a comment.
Please use the "login" link at the top (right) of the page.

Subscribe / Suscribete  
If you receive San Miguel Events newsletter,
then you are already on our mailing list.    
   click ads
copyright 2023