As the son of a Mexican immigrant father and rural Appalachian mother, the pull of two distinct identities has always been a reality for him. “Growing up Latino in the American South, I felt like I had to navigate social situations carefully, even within my own family.” Espinoza recounts moments when someone would make derogatory generalizations about Mexicans, then qualify it with ‘but, you’re not really a Mexican.’ “Let’s just say I learned how to swerve in and out of various identities quickly, so I wouldn’t feel ostracized.” In this day of heightened racial divisiveness, Espinoza believes making art is one important way of bridging the gap.
In his music, one can hear Espinoza swerving between identities. “I feel like my art inhabits the space between jazz and classical music. I’m enamored with composers like Debussy, Ravel, Chopin, but crave the freedom of Art Tatum and Bill Evans.” On the piano, Espinoza is particularly adept at switching quickly from shimmering impressionism to virtuosic outbursts akin to Chick Corea or Keith Jarrett, whom he cites as major influences. In sound, as in life, Espinoza has learned to adjust to situations on the fly, making for enthralling music. What’s the place of an artist in this increasingly chaotic social landscape? According to Espinoza, “music is one of the few things that can bring people together, despite our differences. If my songs can quiet a listener’s mind for just a moment, and allow these perceived distinctions to drip away, then I’ve achieved my goal as an artist.”