Primeros Pasos

- For Jazz Orchestra -

Primeros Pasos (First Steps) combines the unique rhythms of Festejo and the sophisticated harmonic language of Jazz.

The rhythms of Festejo are based on polyrhythms - the three-against-two feel - and accents that fall on the first downbeat and then on upbeats. There are different permutations of the basic rhythms of Festejo throughout the piece, combined with extended chords - sevenths, ninths, and elevenths - that change in every section.

There are four well-defined sections in Primeros Pasos. The intro is slow and canonic, which represents the struggle that comes when we first try to walk. Dragging ourselves on the floor, falling down multiple times, and trying again and again until we can finally stand up and walk. The second section is upbeat and it represents the actual walking. The melodies in this section are inspired by Festejo standards that Paredes used to listen to when she was a little girl. The third section is more playful; we are running, jumping, and playing around in this one. There are more chord changes and broken-down melodies in this section than in others to represent playfulness. The last section after the climax takes us back to the second section when we were walking with some variations. The end is a reminder of when we started, and to not forget how far we have come.

This piece is dedicated to Paredes' niece Zoe, who was learning how to walk at the time.

Commissioned by Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Performance on February 15th, 2014 by Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in Symphony Space, New York. Featuring Freddy "Huevito" Lobaton on Cajón.


- For Jazz Ensemble -

Festejo combines the indigenous dance, instrumentation and ritual of native Peru with African music and dance. The origins of the upbeat, Afro-Peruvian sound that make up Festejo can be traced to the celebration of Peru's independence from Spain and the emancipation of slaves first brought to the country in the 1500's.

Guitar, bass, cajon and quijada (jawbone) make up a traditional Festejo band. Lyrically, festejo songs focus on the themes of love, courtship, or as the name of the genre suggests, festivities. A vocalist is included in many Festejo standards, but Paredes have replaced the vocals with flute for this piece. Accompanying the Festejo sounds are jovial dances that also reflect the music's name.

Peru is diverse country, and its music reflects that diversity. This piece is the her way of paying homage to her Peruvian roots.

Performed by Sarah Kuzma (flute), Eric Braunstein (trumpet), David Whitwell (trombone), Patrick O'Reilly (cajon), Laura Vuksinich (percussion), Paula Battista (percussion), Matthew Gantt (guitar), Andrey Rengevich (electric bass), and Hyun Sung Nam (piano).

Live recording on May 14, 2012 in Studio 312 at Brooklyn College, New York.