Music Interview: Sketches Of Burque

Ryan Montaño’s Trumpet Sounds The Call

August March
5 min read
Sketches of Burque
Ryan Montaño (courtesy of the artist)
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Always on the hunt for new and potentially enlightening musical experiences, Alibi music critic August March wandered toward his Downtown office for an interview while thinking upon David Noble, a dude who was the Albuquerque Journal music critic in the before time. March would run into Noble regularly at Keller Hall where, invariably, both would reside on any given weeknight—when the recital palace at the heart of UNM’s department of music was hosting something new, innovative or even fantastic.

March was stationed backstage but would often appear like a spider out of a hole afterwards to chat with performers and even sometimes, the audience. It was on such occasions that March told Noble and Noble told March how much the other envied their job. They both laughed at that.

As March approached
Alibi HQ, he came out of his reverie and noticed local trumpet master Ryan Montaño standing in the doorway. The two shook hands and March led Montaño to a conference room where they discussed Ryan’s latest work and an upcoming concert to celebrate the release of his recording, Truth Journey. Here’s a partial transcript of those musical moments.

Weekly Alibi: Could you please tell our readers about Ryan Montaño, trumpteer from Albuquerque?

Ryan Montaño: I’ve been playing for 20 years …

You’re from outta these parts?

I’m from the East Mountains, actually, from Tijeras.

So you, like, went to Manzano or something, right?

I went to Manzano High School. I graduated in 2005.

I can’t remember if I knew the band director from back then …

It was Richard Heilkema. … Shout out to Richard Heilkema!

Right on! Did you proceed to UNM?

I did. I double majored in Journalism and Psychology. That’s where I also got into photography and video editing. I still do a lot of films and documentaries.

How about the music part; where did that come in?

I came from a musical family. My dad was a guitar player and singer. He had his own band from the ’60s through the ’80s. It was called Goldie Montaño and Full Circle.

Really? They played at places like the Golden Inn, as I recall.

Absolutely. The played at all those country music places like the Caravan East.

I know you saw the Sparx poster we have in our conference room and you said you worked with them too …

Yeah, that whole community of musicians including Sparx, Lorenzo Antonio, Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane, Jr.. I have played in that circle since I was young.

Tiny Morrie and Baby Gaby too, eh?

Yup. Yup. We just played together at the Route 66 Legends Theater for this year’s Quince Grandes concert. I played with a lot of artists like Abe Lucero and Ariel Macias and Tanya Griego …

That’s one of my favorite concert series, every year. I have some videos of those shows.

It’s a cool thing. It’s culturally important and people really love New Mexican music.

What else inspires you and what are you working on now, based on that inspiration?

I’m getting ready to release my new album, Truth Journey. It comes out on Dec. 7. The reason it’s called Truth Journey is because it encompasses the spectrum of me trying to find my own musical truth. That’s because, in 2014, I put out some songs and they did really well on commercial jazz radio. They went onto Billboard, they did really well nationally.

What was that like? Like really loungy-cool jazz or what?

No, no it was more like pop jazz. It opened up a lot of doors, playing at festivals all around the country. The year after that, I put out another song that did really well. But what I was finding was that commercial jazz has a really strict formula that determines whether it gets played or not. I found that my songwriting and what I was doing as an instrumentalist was starting to be structured around that format. I began to wonder what could take me to the next level of getting known. I went through a period of trying to determine exactly what I was trying to do musically. I started writing a lot of songs, with my friends and by myself at the piano. What I like about this album is that encompasses that spectrum [of exploration]. It really comes from the heart. Some of it has that commercial sound, but it is all part of my musical journey of truth.

So do you do all the arrangements too? Do you make charts and then everyone sits down and sight-reads them?

[Laughs] Yeah. Then, much to the chagrin of my band mates, I’m really specific about playing those charts.

Who’s in the band you’re jamming with for this gig?

I always like to brag on the band. Paul Palmer III is playing drums. Artha Meadors is our bassist, Claudio Toulouse plays guitar and Steve Figueroa is the pianist.

That’s cool. I know some people that work like that. Some of the big yacht rock/pop jazz acts like Steely Dan had monster charts, I’ve been told. They’re monstrous looking, but they make impeccable music.

That’s the thing. I’m trying to find this balance in the musical presentation we do. I have an idea of how I want it to sound. I want it to sound a certain way. Being a reader is definitely a requisite for the music we’re trying to do.

Damn Good.

Ryan Montaño Album Release Concert

With Special Guests, Kevin Herig and Isaac Aragon

Friday, Dec. 7 • 7pm

African American Performing Arts Center

310 San Pedro Dr. NE

Tickets Available at

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