Since the mid-'90s, Ernesto Diaz-Infante counts as one of the most prolific avant-garde composer and improviser the U.S. West Coast has seen. He has performed and recorded music on piano, prepared guitar, and electronics; composed chamber music; improvised with a very large number of musicians from California, New York, and Chicago; and released a pile of CDs on very small independent labels such as Pax Recordings, Sweetstuff Media, Zzaj Productions, and Public Eyesore. He also curates the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival (since 1999) and the creative music series at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco (since 2000). His multifaceted career gives him the look of an eclectic or maverick artist, but the persistence and commanding seriousness with which he pursues his career is gaining him a small but dedicated following.
Diaz-Infante was born in Salinas, CA, in 1968, and little is known about his younger years. He earned a bachelor of arts from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1994 and an M.A. in music composition from CalArts in 1996. His first chamber works date from 1992 but have gone unrecorded
except for a percussion solo interpreted by Gustavo Aguilar on Looking for Aztlan. His student years saw him concentrate on contemporary classical music. From 1996 to 1998, he was selected for eight artist residencies, starting with a composer residency at the Centre International de Recherche Musicale in Nice (France), followed by stays on the East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast. Over the course of these years, he continued to compose, but also developed his improvisational side.
Diaz-Infante appeared on a collaborative work with David Dvorin (Triptych, Pax Recordings), but his first album of importance was the 1997 piano solo CD Itz'at. It was followed by Tepeu (1998), Ucross Journal (1999), and Solus (2000), all piano solo releases (Ucross Journal inaugurated a series of piano suites made of short instant compositions written like diary entries). In the meantime, he performed with the New York City free-form trio W.O.O. Revelator on tour in California in the summer of 1999, and struck up a friendship with guitarist Chris Forsyth. A string of collaborations followed from the W.O.O. Revelator/Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Pat Harman Duo's First Time (2000, Sweetstuff) to duets with Forsyth (Left & Right, 2000; Wires & Wooden Boxes, 2001, both on Evolving Ear). In these and within the Left Coast Improv Group, he mostly plays guitar. His 2000 CD with Jeff Kaiser, Pith Balls and Inclined Planes, received critical acclaim.
In 1999, Diaz-Infante founded the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival, the biggest of a string of events he organized in Northern California. In 2001, he moved to San Francisco, trading the relative calm of his previous outposts (including the artist residencies he was on) for much busier playgrounds. There he co-founded the San Francisco Alternative Music Festival and continued to collaborate with other musicians, including Bob Marsh, Tom Nunn, Kyle Bruckmann, Damon Smith, and Philip Gelb. ~ François Couture, Rovi