Mexico City, September 9 – Fortino Contreras González, better known as Tino Contreras, died in the first minutes of this Thursday of a heart attack, accompanied by his family, national, and local media report.
According to Diario de Juárez, his partner Monna Conti reported “Family and friends: with deep pain, I inform you that today, September 9 at 00:30 hours, the heart of our beloved teacher Tino Contreras stopped . Thanks for your understanding”.
Contreras died early Thursday of cardiac arrest, his manager, Monica Ramírez, told The Associated Press.
“He was wonderfully well, perfect, healthy, happy,” said Ramírez, who said that the musician would be veiled on Thursday at a funeral home in the Roma neighborhood of the capital.
The secretary of the culture of Mexico, Alejandra Frausto, mourned his death.
“One of the greats left: Tino Contreras, a legend of jazz in Mexico who infected many generations of artists with joy and inspiration,” Frausto wrote on Twitter. “With his creations, he touched the notes of the world. With his music he explained life itself ”.
Throughout more than six decades of experience, the composer and multi-instrumentalist shared the stage with jazz greats such as Dave Brubeck, Cannonball Adderley, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, while integrating sounds of Latin influence, psychedelia, experimental music, and Flemish.
He made more than 2,000 compositions and recorded 59 albums. The most recent, “The Night of the Gods,” was released in October 2020 by Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood record label and was inspired by the pyramids of Teotihuacán.
Just last April Contreras presented a special concert by streaming from Frida Kahlo’s Blue House.
“Jazz music always goes not with time, but ahead of time. It leaves a mark. It’s what we’re leaving, ”Contreras said in an interview with the AP this year.
Contreras was born on April 3, 1924, in the city of Chihuahua. He started in music at the age of 8, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. At 10 he was already playing with professional musicians, and a few years later he developed his career in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, where he met the music of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
“I was at that time full of jazz, full of beautiful things. It was the time of the end of the Second World War and almost the majority of the soldiers loved to take off the fright they brought from so many gunshots when listening to jazz, ”Contreras recalled in the same interview.
In 1954, it was part of the first jazz album recorded in Mexico with original compositions by local musicians. And from there they began their tours of Greece, Turkey, France, Spain, as well as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Cuba.
Soon he arrived in the capital to work on XEW radio, where he met artists such as the Mexican film star Tin Tan, with whom he made music for his films. He was also part of the Luis Alcaraz orchestra and on his tours of Latin America he brought the merengue as a souvenir from the Dominican Republic and helped introduce the rhythm in Mexico.
Over time he founded a nightclub in Mexico City called Ríguz where he played every night accompanied by Alfonso Zúñiga on piano, Víctor Ruiz Pasos on double bass and his late brother Mario Contreras on trumpet. Other Mexican jazz players with whom he shared throughout his career are Tommy Rodríguez, Mario Patron, Pablito Jaimes, Leo Carrillo and Héctor Hallal “The Arab”.
In 1966 he premiered his most emblematic work, “Misa en Jazz”, well received by the Catholic authorities as a gesture of spirituality. He first premiered it at the Cuernavaca Cathedral and later at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. But for him, the greatest success in his life was that his music reached the Vatican.
As if that were not enough, when he presented his mass at the National Theater in Buenos Aires, he met Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the current Pope Francis, who according to Contreras remembers working in a very rough neighborhood.
“It is said that after God is music,” the jazz player told the AP, who said he was attracted by luminosity and divinity. “God is music, it is what he has bequeathed to us, it is like the wind that comes and goes.”
He is survived by his son Valentino, who like him is a musician and used to accompany him in his performances. His children Marco Antonio and Jorge, as well as his ex-partner María Luisa, have already passed away.