Ila Cantor trio

Friday, June 30, 6pm at Copperfield’s Books, San Rafael | Free event! |

Ila Cantor performs original music featuring her latest love, the charango. The charango is a 10-string Peruvian instrument used in traditional Andean and folk music. It has practically no presence in jazz or chamber music, but Cantor has been inspired to change that. Accompanied by John Wiitala on upright bass and Hamir Atwal on drums, she is thrilled to be presenting a new approach that blends the sounds of traditional South American folk music with jazz instrumentation and composition. Her student, guitarist Spencer Handley, will be the Emerging Artist for this concert.

Excerpted below is an article by Lily O’Brien that appeared in the June 28 issue of the Pacific Sun.

Ila Cantor goes beyond jazz

“I have this commitment right now to just follow my heart when it comes to music,” says jazz guitarist Ila Cantor by telephone from her home in Oakland. A serious jazz guitar student in New York at age 15, she began a successful career that included performing, recording and teaching in New York and Barcelona. But at 25, everything changed.

“I had a little bit of an existential crisis,” she says with a laugh. “It was a feeling that I couldn’t find meaning in what I was doing.” Cantor says that she suddenly realized that the career she had been striving for was one that her parents, teachers and mentors had chosen for her. “It was heartbreaking.”

So she decided to take a break. “I quit playing and moved to Hawaii and completely changed my life,” Cantor says. “It was a dramatic time.”

But while in Hawaii, she began playing again, on the beach, just for fun. And then she discovered songwriting. “It was a beautiful way for me to express and explore what I really love about music,” Cantor says. After a couple of years, she decided to move to California to pursue music again, but more freely.

Recently, Cantor, 32, fell in love with the charango, a 10-string Peruvian instrument, and has been composing melodies and chord changes for it inspired by her jazz guitar music. “It just sounds so cool and different because this instrument has never been played in this way,” she says. “I’m going for a sort of hypnotic quality that’s not about lines and licks, but more about the shifting of harmonies and grooves—something a little more subtle.”

Ila Cantor’s new EP, As You Are, features original songs with reflective lyrics and dreamy vocals accompanied by the charango.


This free concert is presented as a collaboration between Jazz in the Neighborhood and Copperfield’s Books. We are grateful to our members, supporters, and advertisers for making these concerts possible. Thanks also to Bananas At Large for providing our new PA system.

Free event at Copperfield’s Books, 850 Fourth Street, San Rafael


%d bloggers like this: