Jazz Family

May 3, 2012

I learned something about how jazz history is influenced by blood lines when, in the late 1990s, I was in San Antonio, Texas. One evening, looking for somewhere to eat, I found myself following the tourist trail along the city’s Riverwalk. Hearing the music of a promising-sounding band, I went into a restaurant where a quintet was playing post-bop jazz as a warm-up to the evening’s (non-jazz) headliner. All the instrumentalists in this band were good, but the alto saxophonist was exceptional. After listening to this remarkable player for an hour, I had to tell him how much I had enjoyed the evening. I asked his name; he was David Caceres. I asked if he was related to Ernie Caceres; he said that Ernie was his great-uncle. I knew then that he must be the grandson of Emilio Caceres. From his reaction, it was clear that David was pleased at this recognition of the family name; although this was not uncommon in San Antonio. But I think that he was happily surprised that someone with my accent, which clearly came from a few thousand miles away across an ocean, had spotted the family connection.


Jazz in the blood …

Jazz is often said to be in the blood. Although usually not to be taken literally, there are numerous instances where blood links tie musicians together. When families adorn the pages of jazz history, it is possible that the most numerous are pairs of brothers. There are also larger families, the Jones, Heath, Brunies, Goodman and Teagarden brothers come readily to mind. Bridging a generation, there are several father-son pairs, and in some cases where the pair is mother and son. Then there are sisters, and occasions where the generation bridge goes from mother or father to daughter.

Ernie Caceres …

In the case of the Caceres family from Texas, the bridge is a little out of the ordinary. First in line, in jazz terms, came Ernie Caceres. He was born Ernesto Caceres in Rockport, Texas, on 22 November 1911. Although he started out as a professional guitarist before turning to reed instruments, he became highly skilled on several instruments. His first professional engagements were in Texas, often in company with his brothers, Emilio, violin, and Pinero, trumpet and piano. It was with Emilio’s band that he first toured, playing in various parts of the country, including Detroit and New York City.Ernie-CacerasFrom the late 1930s, he played in bands led by Bobby Hackett, Jack Teagarden, Bob Zurke, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Condon and Billy Butterfield, making in all several hundred appearances on record. Although he played clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones with these bands, it was on baritone saxophone that he became best known. Although rooted in big band swing and Dixieland, he was comfortable in almost any company, something he demonstrated on a 1949 recording date with the Metronome All Stars, on which he backed Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, and Charlie Parker.

Emilio Caceres …

Older than Ernie, Emilio Caceres was also born in Texas, in his case in Corpus Christi on 24 September 1897, he played violin and led a swing band that played throughout the Southwest. It was his trio, however, that gained most popularity and considerable critical approval. In the trio with Emilio were his bother Ernie and their cousin, guitarist Johnny Gomez. Thanks to an appearance on Benny Goodman’s Camel Caravan radio show, the trio was very successful but although there was a lot of work for him in New York City, Emilio chose to return to Texas.Emilio-CaceresFrom a base in San Antonio, he toured with a big band, appeared regularly on radio and made popular records. Although he was a gifted jazz improviser, Emilio opted for a repertoire that mixed contemporary swing style with norteño music, a form highly popular in Mexico and the border states. Sadly, Emilio made only a handful of records but from these it is vividly apparent that he was a hugely gifted musician whose playing can still engender excitement and admiration today.

In the 1960s Ernie Caceres returned to Texas, also settling in San Antonio where he and Emilio recorded in 1969. Ernie was friendly with Jim Cullum Sr and he contributed arrangements for Jim Cullum Jr’s San Antonio-based band. He died there on 10 January 1971; Emilio also died in San Antonio, on 10 February 1980.



Blood ties …

Musical blood linked the Caceres brothers to a cousin, Henry Cuesta (1931-2003), who was for many years featured clarinetist with Lawrence Welk. The blood link continued on down to two grandsons of Emilio.

Of these Anthony Caceres played electric bass from age 17, then switched to acoustic bass. This was at the University of North Texas where in 2003 he earned a degree in Jazz Studies. He also studied with Jeff Bradetich, Lynn Seaton, Mark Egan and Michael Manring.

Anthony-CaceresMore recently, maintaining a family connection, he has toured the country and visited Japan with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Among the many leading names of jazz and pop with whom Anthony has worked are the Four Aces, Ed Soph, Marvin Stamm, Bill Mays, Greg Abate and Carl Fontana.


The other grandson is David Caceres, who plays alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet and flute. While at Berklee College of Music he also began singing, gradually deciding that this was an area of his musicality he wanted to pursue. From 1989, David worked in New York, quickly building his reputation before joining pianist Paul English’s quartet in Houston. More recently, David has fronted his own quartet, has played with fusion group Stratus, and the funk band TKOh! and has appeared on numerous recording dates.

David-CaceresSince 1995, David’s own name recordings have included Innermost, Trio and Reflections. His most recent release is David Caceres on which he effectively blends his straight-ahead post bop alto saxophone with his relaxed and romantically-inclined singing.



Through the decades and the generations, a deep love for jazz has flowed in the veins of the Caceres family, demonstrating that in the case of these internationally acclaimed jazz musicians, family matters.

… been here and gone!


One Response to “Jazz Family”

  1. Dave T on October 14th, 2012 7:10 pm

    Cracking site. The reviews are first class but the Jazz Family article is a lovely piece of writing. Lets have more ….

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