Latin Jazz Rhythms Seep Into Musician’s Heart

by Ron Oshima

Come fly with me,
Let’s float down to Peru
In llama land, there’s a one-man band…

Come Fly with Me, crooned by Frank Sinatra, was Lucas LaBeau’s audition piece for MYSO’s Jazz Studies program three years ago. His mother, Milagros, had been taking him and his older brother to Peru every summer since he was one. She was born and raised in Lima and is also a pilot for United Airlines. You couldn’t have found a more appropriate piece for his audition.

Lucas currently plays piano and jazz organ in the Bronzeville Jazz Ensemble, at our most advanced jazz level, Bebop and Beyond. Considering that he is only twelve years old and in the seventh grade (at Greendale Middle School), that’s quite an accomplishment.

Lucas started taking classical piano lessons when he was five-and-a-half years old. But the combination of being around Latin and jazz rhythms every summer in Lima and hearing that music constantly playing in his home has seeped into his heart. While he still takes classical piano, jazz has obviously taken residence in his soul.

He is also musically adventurous. He started violin lessons three years ago and plays trombone in his middle school band. “I decided to expand to those instruments because it gave me a wider opportunity to learn about different music and different types of instruments,” said Lucas.

When asked how he developed such a passion for music, he replied, “I love how it feels and I love to play it because it’s such a wonderful feeling to know that you can create music and play with others and have fun with this stuff.”

How does Lucas find the time for practicing with all these instruments? Milagros says, “Lucas alternates instrument practice every other day and sometimes doubles up. However, to be honest, now that he’s getting older, finding the time is a bit more challenging…he’s going to have to make some difficult choices and focus on one to two instruments at most.”

Lucas just started playing the jazz organ about two months ago. What makes it challenging is that the left hand plays the bass line while the right hand plays the melody and also complements the soloist. The sound engineer at WMSE radio, also a jazz pianist, remarked during a live broadcast in November that Lucas has a “really good left hand. Most kids have a hard time focusing today, and when you can focus on your left and right hands doing two different things, that’s phenomenal.” High praise indeed!

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