Buenos Aires, 1959
Juan “Pollo” Raffo (Buenos Aires, 1959) is a composer, arranger, conductor, keyboardist and music teacher. He exercises all these activities at once, making efforts so they not interfere with each other but become mutually reinforced. He began his piano studies at the age of 8, learning “The First Loss” (“Erster Verlust”) by Robert Schumann. Such initiation prompted him to seek after a tragic sense in music. This he has accomplished sometimes, while others he has achieved the opposite, attaining not quite as desirable humorous results.
He has had the good fortune of having great teachers, starting with his own family. In the academic field, he has received a Summa Cum Laude Diploma in Jazz Composition from Berklee College of Music in Boston and a Master of Arts degree in Composition from New York University (NYU), having pursued this graduate study under the auspices of a Fulbright scholarship.
In 2015 he received the Konex Platinum Award to popular music as the prime exponent of the decade 2005-2014 in the discipline “Instrumental / Fusion”.
He has led various cult groups in the Argentinean contemporary popular music scene, such as Trigémino (Trigeminal) in the 70’s, El Güevo (“The Egg”) in the 80’s and Monos con Navajas (“Monkeys with Knives,” co-led with bassist Willy González) in the 90’s, which was commended by the Konex foundation as one of the top five jazz ensembles in the decade spanning 1985-1994.
Simultaneously, he has worked as an arranger, keyboardist and/or musical director for some of the most outstanding representatives of the Argentinean popular music: Juan Carlos Baglietto, Soda Stereo, León Gieco, Los Piojos, Divididos, No Te Va Gustar, Fito Páez, Manuel Wirzt, Ratones Paranoicos, Ciro y Los Persas, Juanse, Vox Dei, Miguel Cantilo, Los Gardelitos, El Bordo, Nito Mestre, María Rosa Yorio, Moris, Roque Narvaja, Fontova, Sueter, Celeste Carballo and Julia Zenko. In 2003 he produced the album “Soundances”, by trumpeter Diego Urcola, who won twice Grammy nomination (USA Grammys and Latin Grammys) in the category “Best Latin Jazz Album”. In 2006 he composed music for the album “Viva” by the same artist, which also involved Paquito D’Rivera and Dave Samuels. This latter work was also nominated for a Grammy in the same category.
Since 1990, he has been carrying out extensive teaching activities in the areas of arranging, composition, keyboards, ensemble workshops and music appreciation, making idle efforts not to arouse in his students his own obsessions. He is currently teacher at the Academic Center for Global Education at the University of New York (NYU), the Escuela de Música Contemporánea (EMC, member of the Berklee International Network) and the Tamaba institute.
Since 2003 he leads “Raffo”, the group dedicated to the interpretation of his own compositions that combine the rhythms and the character of South American music with the spirit of jazz improvisation. These elements flow through formal structures and compositional developments that are usually associated with academic music, resulting in an unstable blend of erudition and unruliness.
To date the band has released four albums, the volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the series “Music from Flores” (after the Buenos Aires neighborhood of the same name). These are “Guarda que Viene el Tren” (Watch Out! The Train is Coming!, 2006), “Diatónicos Anónimos” (Diatonic Anonymous, 2010), “Al Sur del Maldonado” (South of the Maldonado, 2013) and “Brindis” (Toast, 2016). They are currently performing live the music from their last album.
Simultaneously with his activity with the group, Juan Raffo plays his compositions and arrangements in solo piano format. In addition, he performs in duo with guitarist Alan Plachta, integrates the collective of composers and performers Ensamble Real Book Argentina and is a guest composer and conductor for the Boris Big Band. He has also premiered several works of symphonic and chamber music, some of them in the city of New York and some others in Buenos Aires.