PuSh Blog

An untraditional, breakout star: Antonio Sánchez (BiRDMAN: LiVE)—A curatorial statement by Fiona Black

December 08, 2017

BiRDMAN LiVE: Antonio Sanchez
Photo: Bógar Adame

Prior to Antonio Sánchez being thrust into the limelight with his mind-bending drum score to the Oscar-winning film Birdman, Sánchez was already one of the most in-demand and highly regarded percussionists in jazz.

I had the pleasure to meet and work with Antonio in the spring of 2014 for a performance with Pat Metheny’s Unity Group. I was struck by how generous Metheny was with giving all of his band members time to shine. The group was stacked with talent including Chris Potter, one of jazz’s most exciting saxophonists, and Sánchez laid the bedrock for the brilliant quintet with such precision and controlled ferocity.

Birdman’s director and fellow Mexican Alejandro González Iñárritu approached Sánchez with the idea, not knowing that Sanchez had grown up listening to Iñárritu’s radio show Magical Nights. According to a Vanity Fair interview, Sánchez initially approached the score traditionally with a rhythmic theme for each character. But Iñárritu veered Sánchez towards a “very loose and organic and from the gut, very visceral and jazzy” score. The thrilling result was completely improvised with Sánchez playing off of Iñárritu’s directorial cues alone.

Birdman garnered tremendous critical acclaim, and the soundtrack, with its unique interplay with the film, was considered to be another character to the story, making Sánchez an untraditional, breakout star of the film. Birdman would go on to win four Oscars but not for best original score as Sánchez’s work was deemed ineligible due to the fact that there was additional classical music in the soundtrack. There was much outrage over the Oscar inadmissibility amongst the music community but Sánchez would get some vindication with a Grammy win in 2016 for best score soundtrack.

Since the success of Birdman, Sánchez has continued to be busy recording and touring, both as a leader and sideman. His latest release, entitled Bad Hombre, is a testament to his Mexican roots and politics, and a direct reference to Donald Trump’s stance and racist comments towards Mexicans. Sánchez emigrated at the age of 22 from Mexico City to New York City in 1993, but has remained steadfastly involved with causes dear to his Mexican roots. Sánchez considers his art a weapon against the ills in society. Aside from his art, Sánchez has been very outspoken on multiple platforms, including social media.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

When Sánchez takes the stage for a live performance of BiRDMAN: LiVE, audiences can expect a completely unique score, as is the nature of improvisation. You will never experience the film in quite the same way again. You can also catch Antonio Sánchez in conversation earlier in the day when he gives a free talk, hosted by VIFF, at Vancity Theatre—expect him to dig deep into his process of scoring a solo drum performance for Birdman, his life in jazz, and I’m sure a little politics too.

Fiona Black
Director of Programming
BlueShore Financial Centre for Performing Arts

Making its debut in Vancouver for one night only at the Vogue Theatre, find out what critics and sold-out crowds in L.A., Sydney, Mexico City, and beyond, having been raving about. Buy tickets.