Montevideo Music

U.S. band jazzes up the stages in Uruguay
Dr. Guy’s MusiQologY plays to full houses in Montevideo; heads to Maldonado
Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, leader of Dr. Guy’s MusiQologY, combined his keyboard talent, love of music and knowledge of black music culture to give a series of lessons on music Montevideo won’t soon forget.
Dr. Ramsey, a professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), performed with his band at the Alianza Theatre Wednesday night (March 24) and participated in a jam session at AGADU on Thursday night (March 25), where he was joined by Ruben Rada, Uruguay’s premier musician. On Friday he headed to Maldonado to perform at the Casa de la Cultura.
Dr. Ramsey also conducted workshops and discussed his music at CE.CU.PI and Mundo Afro, two Afro-Uruguayan institutions in Montevideo.
The high-energy group, which puts an original twist on popular American music, was brought to Uruguay as part of a cultural program of the U.S. Embassy, Montevideo. Members include Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, keyboards, Clifton Kellum, bass, Justin Flynn, saxophone, Joe Breidenstine, trumpet, Joseph Battaglia, guitar, and Lucky Thomson, drums.
The concerts also were sponsored by the municipality of Maldonado, the Alianza Cultural Uruguay-US, The Center for Peace and Integration and Mundo Afro organizations.
Dr. Guthrie Ramsey was given a warm welcome at the Centro Cultural por la Paz y Integracion on Tuesday March 22 when he was greeted by sixty Uruguayan music lovers who came out to listen to him lecture on musicology and perform with members from his group, Dr. Guy’s MusiQologY.
In his lecture, Dr. Ramsey discussed his book, “Race Music: From Be-Bop to Hip-Hop.” He explained that music has different meanings for different audiences. “The most powerful thing about music is that it is culture and it is learned. It is not in one’s DNA but rather is a set of practices learned and passed on from generation to generation” Dr. Ramsey explained to the audience. “What’s interesting about culture is it can fuse with another culture and with music this is the case as well.” Examples Dr. Ramsey pointed out included the fusion of rhythms and blues and latin rhythm techniques.
Dr. Ramsey gave a brief explanation about the techniques used in jazz to create the unique blend in sound. He then followed by demonstrating jazz beats as he played keyboard and had the trumpet and sax players join in blending different beats. “Musicians of jazz are supposed to present musical personality that only belongs to them,” Dr. Ramsey stated as his sax player, Justin Flynn and trumpet player, Joe Breidenstine each gave solo performances sharing a bit of their personalities with the audience.
After the lecture and performance, the evening continued as Uruguayans gave Dr. Ramsey and his band a taste of Uruguayan culture by performing candombe, dancing tango, playing the badalion and singing. It was a cultural exchange between the Uruguayans and Americans that left both groups energized and excited about the upcoming events in the visit.
At the Alianza Theatre, Dr. Ramsey introduced some of his original works.
Lincoln Drive,” Dr. Ramsey said, “was written about a street that runs along the river in Philadelphia. That street reminds me of La Rambla.”
Bass player Cliff Kellum dazzled the audience with a solo in one of Ramsey’s original pieces written for him, “Cliff Hanger” and Lucky Thomson delighted the audience when he ended his solo in "Lucky's Seven" with a Candombe beat. Later in the evening Dr. Ramsey called “local jazz hero” Oliver Griffith, Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy, to the stage to play his saxophone with the band.
Dr. Ramsey closed the concert by saying, “I must say I am so grateful to be in your beautiful country. I have had the time of my life. I’ve met many new friends in this country and I hope that these connections continue for many years.”
At the lecture at Mundo Afro Thursday (March 25), Dr. Ramsey discussed his background and answered questions from the crowd of about 75 people.
“I was poor and black and I didn’t own a piano until I was 15,” he said. “So I looked for other families that had pianos so that I could play.”
Later, after earning a degree to teach music, he said he “started looking into the history of music instead of just at the music itself.”
Ramsey said, “It’s my belief that from knowing our history, we can improve our futures. Our histories are embedded in music. We need to make people understand that although black people aren’t powerful politically or economically in the U.S., culturally we are dominant.”
After an audience member asked how he felt about the commercialization of black music, Dr. Ramsey responded: “I understand there are some groups who have reservations about the commercialism of Candombe. But think about it. If not for the great capitalism of the US, soul music wouldn’t be heard around the world…Commercializing the music is not a sell out. We create it, sell it and then create more and more and more."
On keyboard, Dr. Ramsey demonstrated versions of gospel music played at black churches in the U.S. Then musicians from Mundo Afro took turns on the stage to entertain Dr. Ramsey with Candombe and blues music. The event ended as a dance party.
Thursday night at AGADU, Dr. Guy’s MusiQology gave a more informal performance, which was attended by Ambassador and Mrs. Silverstein.
Dr. Ramsey played a baby grand piano instead of keyboards. Giving each musician a turn in the spotlight, he demonstrated how each member of the band played an integral part in the whole sound.
“What we’ll learn tonight is that we have many commonalities although we don’t speak the same language,” he told the audience.
After several songs, Ramsey introduced Ruben Rada, who, with his band, played several popular numbers for the crowd.
“Thank you for coming to Uruguay,” Rada told MusiQologY members. “I hope you enjoy the music. The music is fantastic.”

Later some musicians from the audience went onstage to participate in an impromptu jam session to close the show.

Singer Ruben Rada (back, right) and his group of Candombe drummers greet Dr. Guy's MusiQology at the airport. Rada drums a welcome to MusiQology
Dr. Guthrie Ramsey (center, front) poses with his band, Public Affairs Officer Brian Penn and Beatriz Sangos of CE.CU.PI, an Afro-Uruguayan organization. Dr. Ramsey speaks about music at CE.CU.PI.
Dr. Ramsey joins MusiQology on stage. Audience at the Alianza Theatre enjoys the music.
Political Officer Oliver Griffith, center, joins Justin Flynn, saxophone and Joe Breidenstine, trumpet. Dr. Ramsey signs autographs after the concert.
Dr. Ramsey jams with bass player at Mundo Afro. Dr. Ramsey answers a question from the audience by demonstrating his music.
Dr. Ramsey is entertained by musicians at Mundo Afro. Mundo Afro musicians.
Members of Dr. Guy's MusiQology jamming. More jamming.
Dr. Ramsey speaks about his music at AGADU. Dr. Ramsey introduces Ruben Rada.
Ambassador Martin J. Silverstein and his wife, Audrey, enjoy the concert. Rada performs at AGADU.
CE.CU.PI.'s Beatriz Santos joins Dr. Ramsey on stage during the jam session at AGADU. Dr. Guy's MusiQology poses with Ambassador and Mrs. Silverstein.
Dr. Guy's MusiQology on the beach in Punta del Este MusiQology in the Casa de la Cultura in Maldonado.
Bandmembers Justin Flynn and Joe Breidenstine with fans. Dr. Ramsey signs another autograph.


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