Javier Navas relaxing in his studio at his homein Malaga. / M. FERNÁNDEZ

Javier Navas and his style of jazz vibrate with unusual energy

Navas is one of few vibraphone players leading a jazz quintet. The group will play their third recording, La Revolución, in Malaga in December


Javier Navas is used to being unique. He is one of the very few active Spanish vibraphone players leading their own band. Months after releasing La Revolución (The Revolution), the band's small, yet mighty, insurrection, will be played live for the first time on 16 December at the Echegaray Theatre in Malaga (8pm, tickets €15).

It's hard for him to assign words to his music. The vibration of the instrument's 36 metal bars which make the characteristic melodic sound of the vibraphone, make perfect sense in his head,

"I suppose La Revolución is a bold title, but it refers to smaller matters, for example small things about my life that I want to change to then be able to change the world."

He states that by changing behaviour, ideas and values on an individual level, everyone doing what they can, we can aspire to a more authentic transformation.

Since 2016, when Navas felt ready to move forwards with the quintet and his own compositions, a clear (r)evolution has taken place.

"In terms of language and style, it's obvious. I have tried to find my own voice, my personal mark. I think we are finding it." He speaks in the plural because he's always got Enrique Oliver (soprano and tenor saxophone), Juan Galiardo (piano and keyboard), Bori Albero (double bass) and Dani Domínguez (drums) at the forefront of his mind.

They are the other four members of the band who signed up for what might have been thought musical madness, and six years later, are still by his side.

"I wanted it to be a group sound, not just my music," Navas says.

In his studio

He creates music and rehearses from his own home, an isolated retreat in the city district of Puerto de la Torre, with its peripheral tranquility and the comfort of a fully equipped home studio, only a few steps away from the living room.

A vibraphone and a large marimba sit between a poster of Miles Davis, some drumsticks and a record. This is his refuge, the place where his energetic scores that make up The Revolution took shape. His new single Eternal Garden is now available on streaming platforms.

His work does not reflect traditional jazz. It's uncommon to find a vibraphone at the centre of a jazz composition. It has its advantages, but it can also be a drawback.

"On the one hand, it's easier to lead the way because you are doing something which not many people do. But on the other, there's more risk for the producers as they are not used to this style of work." He is "on the edge" of the more 'conservative' interpretation which favours the traditional trio and the more contemporary attitude, which is more open to taking a chance on something different.

His starting point, however, is definitely conventional. He graduated in percussion from Malaga's Conservatorio Superior music school and there is still a great deal that sticks with him from that period in his life.

"For example, being punctual," he jokes. He also works as a percussion teacher at the Martín Tenllado music school, and is a member of Malaga's symphony orchestra.

The concert

  • What. A live performance of the Javier Navas Quintet's new recording, La Revolución.

  • Who. Javier Navas (vibraphone), Enrique Oliver (tenor and soprano sax), Juan Galiardo (piano and keyboards), Bori Albero (double bass), Dani Domínguez (percussion).

  • Where. Echegaray Theatre, Malaga.

  • When. 16 December 8pm.

  • Tickets. 15 euros. www.unientradas.es

After studying

His passion for jazz grew over the years, after finishing his degree.

"I said to myself, 'okay, I want to play jazz but I don't want to learn a new instrument, what can I do already?'"

He never really liked the drums so the most feasible option was the vibraphone. It was a way of "short-cutting", experimenting with other forms but with a solid preexisting base.

Today, jazz is what comes naturally to him. It helped him to take a leap into this lively jazz community, that in the late 2000s and early 2010s, settled in Malaga with a handful of highly accomplished musicians who made the bold decision to dedicate themselves to jazz from there on.

"Imagine. We are a group who are all greatly enthused by the same ideas, by music and how we can relate to one another," he explained.

Some of them have known each other since childhood. Navas started out in the band Las Flores with Enrique Oliver. With some of the others, he has taken part in different projects and training, which have helped him form his unique sound. A "rupture in the world of jazz", and "a historic moment for Malaga's music scene", Javier Navas says, happily.