Aaron Prado was born to be a jazz musician. Seriously. His father George Prado, of the long-running Regency Jazz Band in San Antonio, gave his son the middle name Ellington. While still in the crib, his parents played recordings of classic jazz records by Keith Jarrett and John Coltrane to the newborn baby.
Years later, Prado grew up to study jazz in school, eventually earning a Ph.D., and for a time helming Trinity University’s jazz station, KRTU 91.7 FM. In 2011, he was commissioned by the station to write the “San Antonio Suite,” a long-form work for jazz orchestra featuring poetry and readings by Carmen Tafolla.
Prado says he remembers when he first started thinking about writing music himself. He was listening to Alfred Brendel playing Beethoven’s “Appassionata” sonata, and told his father, “Listen to this guy play this, doesn't he play it great?” The elder Prado replied, “Well it's great how Alfred Brendel plays this tune. But can you imagine having written it?”
“I was like 'whoooaa,'” Prado says with wide eyes. “Somebody had to think of this and write it down. I was just blown away by that and it stuck with me.”
“And I always thought, if were a composer I would be walking around humming beautiful melodies and hearing symphonies in my mind. Later I just found out that when you're improvising, it's the same process as composition, but the difference is time and editing. So if you can improvise, you can compose. One of the biggest thrills is writing some music—and you kind of have an idea about what it's going to sound like—and then hearing some great musicians play it for the first time. It's really like one of the greatest feelings as a musician.”
Today, Prado teaches music at Northwest Vista College, one of the Alamo Colleges, and continues to write and perform music for himself, his sextet, and other settings.
Hear Aaron Prado and his band play four original tunes, plus music by Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter, on Live At Jazz, TX, Saturday night at 7:00 on Texas Public Radio, or get a preview in the embedded player below.