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A sunny Saturday afternoon with a 22-piece band as we remembered a great musician

Paying musical respects to Jimmy Barto

For an out of the way small Mexican town, Ajijic has a pretty lively music community.  A lot of musicians retired here after  music careers in the States, Canada, and some Latin American and European countries.  The costs of living are low – always a concern for artists who often don’t have a retirement fund and are living on Social Security.  Plus, the weather is great, there is plenty of good food, good drinking and good friends.

 And Mexico loves music.  And with the creative capital of Mexico, Guadalajara, only an hour away,  there are plenty of venues to play in, plenty of compañeros  to play with, and eager audiences.

One of those retired (but not really) musicians was the trumpet player/composer/ keyboardist/drummer and vocalist Jimmy Barto.  A graduate of the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, after graduation he joined the College’s faculty as an Instructor of Film Scoring for eight years. He also composed and arranged music for Boston recording sessions and scored the soundtracks for nationally-televised documentaries, full-scale musicals, and films like “Fame”. He also arranged and produced recordings of “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Over the Rainbow” by Julia Brody and “Caravan” by Chris Hein. He continued recording and producing after moving to  Lakeside in his own commercial recording studios using s software he developed.  

He died a year ago and the music community here celebrated his passing anniversary with what else, a concert. Christine Phillipson of the Los Amigos Big Band pulled the band together, along with Guadalajara-based singer Alejandra Perez Romero, for a musical celebration fit for a former mainstay of the local music community.

The concert was held at the 4toSentido, a vast second story  outdoor restaurant/venue overlooking Lake Chapala, with room for over a hundred socially-distanced people and socially-distanced dancing.  Which  was a good thing because 115 people showed up for what was supposed to be a one hundred seat concert.  Although it strained the restaurant staff a bit, a few more tables and chairs were brought out and he extras had perfectly good seats in the big tents set up on the restaurant’s outdoor plaza, the size of half a football field.

The 22-piece band knocked itself out, playing high energy jazz and standards in the first set  and smoothly backing Alejandra in the second set for mostly old favorites. Barto’s former partner gave, not an eulogy, but a tip of the hat and some funny observations about Jimmy.  After she spoke , people at tables whispered their own stories of his performances. Especially moved was Ray Domenech, owner of Casa Domenech, a local jazz venue where Jimmy often played and where is memorial service was held a year ago.

It was a lovely Saturday afternoon, sitting in the shaded outdoors, sipping beer and tequila, and listening to world class jazz from a 22-piece band.  I just wish Jimmy  had been in the band.

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music Sin Fronteras radio



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (442 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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