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Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival 2013

Bruce Lindsay By
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Monvínic, a stylish restaurant on the Carrer de Disputacio, has played host to some intriguing events at previous festivals. The 2013 program featured the venue once again and the Monvínic Experience—a wine tasting plus improvisations combination this year featuring Ravi Coltrane—had already taken place before my visit. On Wednesday evening Monvínic played host to a unique version of the Downbeat Blindfold Test. Presented by Ted Panken, with pianist Omar Sosa as his guest, the test followed the time-honored format: Panken presenting Sosa with a series of nine unidentified tunes which the pianist then commented on. The added attraction, as is always the case with Monvínic, was the chance to taste a range of excellent wines chosen by award-winning Head Sommelier Cèsar Cànovas to match the music being played.

Sosa was a passionate, articulate and knowledgeable guest, giving clear explanations for his opinions and criticising, on occasions, without being destructive. He correctly identified five of the pianists, as well as a couple of the accompanying percussionists. His comments were instructive, both about his own approach to the piano and the styles of the musicians we listened to.

Another favorite performance space, the club known as Luz De Gas, took its place once again as one of the festival's most popular venues. The concerts which took place there during this week ably demonstrated the range of styles and approaches which Catalan musicians are engaging with. First up was a showcase concert for Eva Fernández, a young singer and saxophonist from Barcelona. Fernández is one of the fresh young talents to emerge from the Sant Andreu Jazz Band. The band's director, bassist and saxophonist Joan Chamorro, accompanied Fernández. So, too, did singer and trumpet player Andrea Motis, the band's best known member who already enjoys star status in Catalonia.

This was a concert devoted to classic songs, interpreted with skill and maturity by Fernández who, like Motis, is still in her teens. "Cry Me A River," "These Foolish Things" and other standards flowed freely, the talented band giving Fernández terrific support. A lively version of "Cheek To Cheek" featured Fernández and Motis in a vocal duet while "My Favorite Things" featured Fernández' flowing, positive, soprano sax solo. An encore of "Smile" featured guitarist Josep Travera on ukelele.

Chamorro could be described as a terrific front man, but for the fact that he spent most of the concert at the rear of the group, with his double bass. Wherever he stood on stage he drew the attention, not only with his dynamic bass playing but also with his physical presence. On the slower numbers Chamorro's movements were almost balletic as he responded to the melodies. He also showed himself to be a stylish saxophonist, adding tenor to "Cry Me A River" and "My One And Only Love" and playing the melody of "Donna Lee" on baritone in unison with trumpet and alto.

Duke Ellington isn't the likeliest supporting act, but it was he, accompanied by bassist John Lamb and drummer Sam Woodyard, who opened for pianist Ignasi Terraza and his trio on Saturday night at Luz De Gas. The trio performed a suite of Terraza's original compositions, titled Imaginant Miró in tribute to the famed Catalan artist and jazz lover Joan Miró. Obviously Ellington didn't make the support slot in person. In 1966 the pianist and the artist met in the south of France. Ellington played a couple of numbers, watched over by Miró, and the impromptu performance was captured on film. The film of one of the tunes, a blues which Ellington eventually called "The Shepherd (Who Watches Over His Flock)," served as the introduction to Terraza's own performance.


Terraza and drummer Esteve Pi had formed part of Fernández' backing band two nights previously. In contrast with that earlier concert, Imaginant Miró was characterised by a more meditative approach and a calm, relaxed, stage presence. The suite was beautiful—at times haunting, at others graceful and, in its occasional upbeat moments, filled with a joyous positivity. The opening section, a slinky blues-based tune, was reminiscent of the version of Jon Hendricks and Harry "Sweets" Edison's "Centrepiece" recorded by Joni Mitchell—another jazz-loving artist with the initials JM.

If Monvínic represented the upscale jazz experience and Luz de Gas its slightly shabby yet still glamorous side then the Harlem Jazz Bar, tucked away in a side street in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, provided a more visceral experience. Friday night saw the first in a set of performances from Catalan singers, titled Voices Of Barcelona. The club was crammed full with fans of all ages.

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