As for the technical aspects of blending both genres, D’Rivera says it's quite easy. “I've been doing it most of my life.”
Simon—who has also performed alongside other renowned jazz musicians such as Herbie Mann, Bobby Hutcherson, and Don Byron—says that while he hasn't been playing boleros all of his life, like D’Rivera, it was the first music genre he came in contact with.
His father, an avid bolero lover, on occasion would ask his then 10-year-old son to sing a few ballads in front of his guests while he played guitar. The only problem was the boy hated it. “I used to hide during these parties to avoid having to sing,” he recalls. “Back then, I really couldn’t understand the meaning of a bolero and what it represented.”
That changed through the years, and when Granados came up with the idea of restoring some of the old ballads, Simon thought it a great way of paying homage not only to his father, who introduced him to music, but also to the bolero, which for decades taught Latin Americans the art of romance.
Granados, on the other hand, loved to sing boleros at a young age. He followed his father around the old town of San Pedro Del Río, in the Venezuelan highlands, as the elder serenaded the community with violin and guitars in the town square.
But unlike his father, a respected violinist who founded a music school in Venezuela, Leonardo showed from an early age a predilection towards singing, a preference that Leonardo’s mother, Marisol, says came from her side of the family. “That is something that I always tell him,” she says. “When it comes to the appreciation and the ear for music, I believe that comes from my husband’s side, but it's on my side of my family that we have singers.”
D’Rivera, on the other hand, when asked to play boleros, even incorporated some of the old sound into his own work. The 1992 recording, La Habana - Rio Conexión, for example, is a compilation of boleros and bossa nova instrumentals. “I always have a little bolero somewhere nearby,” he says. “It has always been present in me. Boleros are a way of life.”