Tino Contreras: 97-Year-Old Mexican Jazz Drummer's Latest Gig : Alt.Latino Tino Contreras talks about his upcoming show at the former home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the famous Casa Azul in Mexico City. This interview was conducted en español.
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A 97-Year-Old Mexican Jazz Drummer's Latest Gig

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A 97-Year-Old Mexican Jazz Drummer's Latest Gig

A 97-Year-Old Mexican Jazz Drummer's Latest Gig

A 97-Year-Old Mexican Jazz Drummer's Latest Gig

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Mexican jazz legend Tino Contreras celebrates his 97th birthday with a special concert from Mexico City. Courtesy of the Artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the Artist

Mexican jazz legend Tino Contreras celebrates his 97th birthday with a special concert from Mexico City.

Courtesy of the Artist

In music, there are legends and there are icons. And then there's Tino Contreras. At 97 years old, he is an iconic living legend. Describing him as just a jazz drummer from Mexico City severely underplays his contribution to the presence of jazz in Mexico.

Tino Contreras was born into a family of musicians in the northwestern Mexican state of Chihuahua in 1924. In his 20s, Contreras moved to Juarez where he would cross the border into El Paso, seeking out pre-war jazz and swing from travelling New York musicians. In the '50s, he moved to Mexico City and launched a career that made him a pioneer of Mexican jazzistas: hardcore post-boppers who mixed Mexican influences into their music.

Since the 1950s, he's had a prolific recording career with albums released in every decade. His music spans straight-ahead jazz, mariachi jazz, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and a series of hard-to-find records that included pre-Colombian musical forms and instruments.

And this month, as he celebrates his 97th birthday, he will give live performances online from the former home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the famous Casa Azul in Mexico City.

This interview is completely in Spanish. A conversation with Don Tino is very much like jazz: it takes unexpected twists and turns, and is full of on-the-spot improvisations.