Cristina Pato is a jazz pianist from Spain who also plays flute and sings. But on her new album, Migrations, there’s a striking sound not often heard in jazz: a bagpipe. Pato has been playing the traditional gaita (pronounced “GY-tah”), a version of the bagpipe from her native region of Galicia, since she was 4 years old.
“I think right now in Galicia, there are more bagpipe players than soccer players, which is a very big statement to say,” Pato says. “But, you know, bagpipes, they are all around the world, and they are all related to the people where they are from. … It’s probably one of the oldest instruments in history.”
The gaita’s stark, commanding sound is an odd fit for jazz, but Pato says she’s been able to use that contrast to her advantage.
“I think that is the reason I get so passionate about the instrument,” she says. “It has so many beautiful limitations that really make you work harder to get things done.”
Here, Pato speaks with NPR’s Scott Simon about moving from Spain to New York, fielding bagpipe questions from strangers, and getting up the nerve to record a Miles Davis tune. Hear more of their conversation by clicking the audio link on this page.