Valdés, McBride and Sosa Among the Globe-trotting Headliners at Upcoming Barcelona Jazz Fest
Posted 10/11/2013

Like the metropolis it represents, the Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival, which launches its 45th edition on Oct. 19, is a diverse, cosmopolitan event with a global perspective that proceeds at a leisurely pace at various venues over its six-week span. The program, constructed by Artistic Director Joan Anton Cararach for the 11th consecutive season, mixes hardcore jazz drawn from different stylistic byways; alternative acts from different nations, some incorporating jazz vocabulary, some not; and a cohort of masters representing pan-Mediterranean aesthetics.

Passing through the Catalonian capital will be Saxophone Summit, with Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane (Oct. 19) and singer Dianne Reeves (Oct. 25) in the Teatre-Auditori Sant Cugat, a modern concert hall in a western suburb. Reeves’ forthcoming album, Beautiful Life, includes interpretations of Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” “Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors.”

At Luz De Gas, a fin de siècle music hall that doubles as a chic after-hours discotheque, Philadelphia-born guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel presents his New Quartet on Nov. 6, while Grammy-winning Brazilian singer Luciana Souza performs on Nov. 17.

Also on the Luz De Gas schedule are the brilliant Spanish flamenco singers Martirio (performing on Nov. 13 with accompaniment by her son, guitarist Raùl Rodrìguez) and Ginesa Ortega (Nov. 29), as well as pianists Ariadna Castellanos and Pepe Rivero (Nov. 23). Swiss-born drum icon Daniel Humair, 75, tweaks the traditional jazz quartet format with a saxophone-accordion front line at the Institut Français on Nov. 27.

One of Barcelona’s most distinguished theaters, BARTS (Barcelona Arts on Stage), hosts Cameroonian singer-electric bassist Richard Bona (Oct. 20), Israeli bassist-composer Avishai Cohen with Strings (Nov. 22), British pianist-vocalist Jamie Cullum (Nov. 28) and drummer Jack DeJohnette’s group with clarinetist Don Byron (Nov. 15).

Nearby at the acoustically pristine auditorium in the Conservatori del Liceu, which hosts Barcelona’s leading collegiate-level jazz department (fest headliners will conduct 18 free master classes at the facility’s library), trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith will perform on Nov. 26. The current edition of Smith’s Golden Quartet includes pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Anthony Brown and video artist Jesse Gilbert.

Youth will be served at the Conservatori on Nov. 20 when Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana—winner of this year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition—plays with Smalls proprietor Spike Wilner’s trio. As the Monk Competition winner, Aldana, 24, received a $25,000 scholarship and a recording contract with Concord Music Group.

Also at the Conservatori, Christian McBride (winner of the Bass category in this year’s DownBeat Critics Poll) helms his swingcentric trio with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens (Nov. 16), both in their twenties.

Further highlighting the festival’s eclecticism, virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile plays the Conservatori on Nov. 12, a day before Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón comes through with his quartet, the Rhythm Collective, supporting the new album Oye!!! Live In Puerto Rico.

The Palau de la Mùsica Catalana, a late-19th-century structure that is one of Barcelona’s many architectural masterpieces, hosts several events as well, including the ACS Trio with pianist Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding on Nov. 14.

The twenty-something Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez plays the venue with the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès on Nov. 23, and Havana piano titan Chucho Valdés arrives with his youthful band the Afro-Cuban Jazz Messengers on Oct. 30, touring in support of their superb new Jazz Village album, Border-Free. (See the November issue of DownBeat to read about Valdés’ career and his current, non-stop activities.)

At the BARTS on the night before the Palau concert (Oct. 29), the members of the Afro-Cuban Jazz Messengers will participate in a special event, Rumba Para Bebo, a memorial concert/mass for Chucho Valdés’ father and teacher, pianist Bebo Valdés, who died on March 22. Chucho Valdés will be master of ceremonies. Joining the Afro-Cuban Jazz Messengers onstage will be a bata chorus of vocalists and percussionists, dancer Yunaisi Farray, bassist Javier Colina, trumpeters Jerry González and David Pastor, tenor saxophonist Eladio Reinón, vocalist Mayra Caridad Valdés, and pianists Javier Massó (“Caramelo”), Lázara Cachao and Omar Sosa, plus Mauricio Vallina and Paloma Manfugás playing pieces by Ernesto Lecuona and Ignacio Cervantes.

On Oct. 30, a few hours before the ACJM’s performance, Sosa will be the guest of honor for the fourth DownBeat Blindfold/Winefold Test, held at Barcelona’s most prestigious wine bar/restaurant, Monvínic. Sommelier Cèsar Cànovas, last year’s winner of Spain’s high profile Best Sommelier Award, will accompany each musical selection with a separate vintage whose essence and provenance is, in his judgment, a thematic tone parallel.

For more information, including a complete schedule, visit the festival’s website.

Ted Panken

Chucho Valdés (Photo: Frank Stewart)






Steve Webster—EC Barlow

Red House Records

Jody Jazz





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