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Jaime Valle: Jazz from San Miguel de Allende to San Diego

Returning July 31 to play the La Jolla Athenaeum’s summer concert series

Jaime Valle has been all over, and thinks San Diego has some of the best jazz talent going.
Jaime Valle has been all over, and thinks San Diego has some of the best jazz talent going.

Jazz guitar man Jaime Valle has been a force on the San Diego scene for many decades. That stayed true even after he moved to the picturesque Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. I was curious for a report about how his community was responding to the pandemic. “Well, there were no rebels against the rules,” he says. “It’s been almost four months since we’ve had a case. People have no issues wearing a mask, because nobody wants to get sick. My neighbor waited ten hours to get her second vaccination. It’s not political in Mexico. Luckily, I was able to come back to San Diego twice to get my shot.”

Jaime Valle & Equinox

Valle is also returning to town July 31 to play the second gig of the La Jolla Athenaeum’s recently revived summer concert series, following the debut episode earlier this month featuring the Larry Goldings Quartet. Valle’s group of Latin jazz heavyweights go by the handle Jaime Valle and Equinox. The band features Otmaro Ruiz on keyboards, Allan Phillips on percussion, John Pena on bass, Anibal Marcelo Seminario on saxophones, and jazz fusion icon Alex Acuna on drums. Even casual jazz fans will recognize Acuna’s name from his time with Weather Report, memorialized on the albums Heavy Weather and Black Market.

Valle says he and Acuna go way back. “Oh man, I think we first hooked up in the ‘90s. He played on my first San Diego album Round Midnight, which we cut at the old Studio West. It’s like an ethnocentric connection we have.” (Valle is from Tijuana, and Acuna is Peruvian.) “If you see a gringo in China, you are going to somehow connect with them, you know? The same thing applies to us.”

Speaking of long-term connections, Valle has known Athenaeum Jazz director Dan Atkinson “so long I can’t even attach a date to it. In the old days, I used to play all over town, and I used to gig at Elario’s in La Jolla every Friday night. It was probably back then. He’s a guitar player too, and he comes to visit me in San Miguel de Allende a lot. He likes the scene there and there are some nice groups that I work with. It’s mostly concerts. We have a 400 year-old theater with killer acoustics that I’ll play once or twice a month. They don’t really have a club scene, like in San Diego.”

Now that he’s been away for a few years, what does Valle miss most? “Trader Joe’s,” he says, before erupting into laughter. “Well, to be serious, I come to San Diego quite a bit. My kids and my grandkids all live here. It’s a three-hour flight to Tijuana, and then I cross over at that new bridge they have with no problems. But I can say with confidence that I miss [bassist] Bob Magnusson. I miss [saxophonist] Tripp Sprague. I miss [drummers] Duncan Moore and Richard Sellers. I miss [bassist] Rob Thorsen. There is so much talent in this town. Talent like that just doesn’t grow on trees. I’ve been all over the world; even in Europe when I was touring with Mundell Lowe, it was really hard to hire a cat with the talent of a Bob Magnusson. When I lived here, that talent pool was so deep. Even if I couldn’t get the first name on the list, everyone was world-class. I do miss that.”

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Jaime Valle has been all over, and thinks San Diego has some of the best jazz talent going.
Jaime Valle has been all over, and thinks San Diego has some of the best jazz talent going.

Jazz guitar man Jaime Valle has been a force on the San Diego scene for many decades. That stayed true even after he moved to the picturesque Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. I was curious for a report about how his community was responding to the pandemic. “Well, there were no rebels against the rules,” he says. “It’s been almost four months since we’ve had a case. People have no issues wearing a mask, because nobody wants to get sick. My neighbor waited ten hours to get her second vaccination. It’s not political in Mexico. Luckily, I was able to come back to San Diego twice to get my shot.”

Jaime Valle & Equinox

Valle is also returning to town July 31 to play the second gig of the La Jolla Athenaeum’s recently revived summer concert series, following the debut episode earlier this month featuring the Larry Goldings Quartet. Valle’s group of Latin jazz heavyweights go by the handle Jaime Valle and Equinox. The band features Otmaro Ruiz on keyboards, Allan Phillips on percussion, John Pena on bass, Anibal Marcelo Seminario on saxophones, and jazz fusion icon Alex Acuna on drums. Even casual jazz fans will recognize Acuna’s name from his time with Weather Report, memorialized on the albums Heavy Weather and Black Market.

Valle says he and Acuna go way back. “Oh man, I think we first hooked up in the ‘90s. He played on my first San Diego album Round Midnight, which we cut at the old Studio West. It’s like an ethnocentric connection we have.” (Valle is from Tijuana, and Acuna is Peruvian.) “If you see a gringo in China, you are going to somehow connect with them, you know? The same thing applies to us.”

Speaking of long-term connections, Valle has known Athenaeum Jazz director Dan Atkinson “so long I can’t even attach a date to it. In the old days, I used to play all over town, and I used to gig at Elario’s in La Jolla every Friday night. It was probably back then. He’s a guitar player too, and he comes to visit me in San Miguel de Allende a lot. He likes the scene there and there are some nice groups that I work with. It’s mostly concerts. We have a 400 year-old theater with killer acoustics that I’ll play once or twice a month. They don’t really have a club scene, like in San Diego.”

Now that he’s been away for a few years, what does Valle miss most? “Trader Joe’s,” he says, before erupting into laughter. “Well, to be serious, I come to San Diego quite a bit. My kids and my grandkids all live here. It’s a three-hour flight to Tijuana, and then I cross over at that new bridge they have with no problems. But I can say with confidence that I miss [bassist] Bob Magnusson. I miss [saxophonist] Tripp Sprague. I miss [drummers] Duncan Moore and Richard Sellers. I miss [bassist] Rob Thorsen. There is so much talent in this town. Talent like that just doesn’t grow on trees. I’ve been all over the world; even in Europe when I was touring with Mundell Lowe, it was really hard to hire a cat with the talent of a Bob Magnusson. When I lived here, that talent pool was so deep. Even if I couldn’t get the first name on the list, everyone was world-class. I do miss that.”

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