Andrés Soto’s musical vision has been created by the diverse experiences of growing up in Richmond, East Bay, California and his world travels.
Whether performing Latin Jazz, Funk, Big Band Jazz, or Symphonic music, Andrés thrives in a variety of musical genres reflecting his diverse background and experiences.
Andrés is now able to share this variety of musical experiences with the public and make much of this music available for events and celebrations.
Andrés’s parents had a love for Mexican, Bebop, Swing, Spanish, Pop, Broadway and Symphonic music and played it daily in their home. West Side Story and the King and I were particular favorites. “A neighbor once complained because I was playing Gee Officer Krupke! too loud” according to Andrés.
Helms Junior High School provided the first opportunity for Andres to play music. He started on Clarinet in 7th grade and switched to Tenor Saxophone in 8th grade playing in the Jazz Band and Concert Band. In 9th grade Andrés added the Flute to his instrumental menagerie.
The Richmond High experience confirmed Andrés as a musician. He played in Jazz band, Symphonic Band, Marching Band, Pep Band and Saxophone Quartet. “My senior year our Jazz Band placed #2 in the state!”, said Andrés.
In the Summer of 1972 Andrés and some of his friends started their own band, the Third Rail Band (later Natural Impulse), playing their favorite music from local bands like Tower of Power, Cold Blood, Santana, Malo as well as dabbling in original Funk, Latin Rock, Jazz, R&B and Soul.
While attending Contra Costa Community College, Andrés played with the CCC Jazz Big Band and Combo, and learning music theory.
By the time Andrés was in his mid-20s he was a student at UC Berkeley majoring in Political Science while playing Latin Jazz, Salsa and Latin Rock with Orquesta Alegria and Sonora Maravilla.
In the mid-80s, Andrés joined Los Universales a Richmond based Chicano band playing the widest musical diversity of his career. According to Andrés, “We played Polka Rancheras, Cumbias, Danzónes, Cha-chas, Salsa, Huapangos, Mambos, Merengues, Oldies, R&B, Rock and Swing at weddings, quinceañeras and anniversaries all over Northern California.”
As he raised his two sons Ché and Alejandro, he limited his music to the Richmond Symphonic Band and the GTS Band, a local R&B cover band until his sons were out of Richmond High School.
At this point Andrés joined the Junius Courtney Big Band where he has played for the last 22 years, now occupying the Lead Alto chair. He also started back playing Latin Jazz, Salsa and Latin Rock with groups like Lava, Mestizo, Sol and Alta.
At the turn of the 21st Century, Andrés re-joined the Contra Costa College Big Band and recorded a CD, “Jazz in the Community” under the direction of Dan Bugeleisen.
In the 21st Century, Andrés has had the opportunity to travel and play music. He has played in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Salvador, Bahia, Brasil; Paris, France; Berlin and Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam and Groningen, Netherlands; Catania, Sicily, as well as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Chicago here in the US.
In the past decade Andrés has joined the West County Winds Symphonic Band where he has played Clarinet and Bass Clarinet. “Playing this music has been a great challenge and an opportunity to play Clarinets at a high level.” Andrés states.
Andrés also started freelancing as a Sax player with R&B, Funk, Rock and Jazz groups. This led to an opportunity in 2016 to play the Tenor Sax chair in the Mic Gillette Band. Mic, Tower of Power’s original Lead Trumpet player, created a powerhouse horn band where Andrés was able to show cases his solo chops while blending with Mic’s fat sound on both Trumpet and Trombone. “Being chosen by Mic to play in his band was a great honor and a wonderful musical experience where I got to play ensemble with one of the world’s great horn players and he gave me incredible space to solo on some great funk.” said Andrés. Today, Andrés and Mic’s daughter Megan are keeping the great music of the MGB alive and gigging.
The latest chapter in Andrés’ career has been teaching. “I have always been a teacher somewhat, but now I get to share my specialized knowledge and experiences with students and watch them grow. It is so rewarding.” reflects Andrés.
According to Andrés, “Music has opened up so many worlds for me. I look forward to continuing to be able to share my music with others to keep the tradition growing.”