Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival: Barcelona, Spain, November 24-30, 2012
In the case of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, directed by Joan Chamorro, these were definitely young Turkssome of the players still have three or four years before they become teenagers. The band played at the Arteria Paral-Lel, a recently renovated theater which, with its excellent seating and acoustics, seems set to be a major venue for future festivals. Although some of the players looked nervous onstage, the band sounded tighter than many big bands with much greater experience. Chamorro led the group through some classic big band numbers which, pleasingly, featured a range of male and female vocalists in addition to the instrumentalists.
Later in the evening the Luz de Gas played host to the Christian Scott Quintet, performing a set which included tunes from Christian aTunde Adjuah (Concord, 2012). Trumpeter Scott and pianist Lawrence Fields were the only Quintet members who remained from the album sessionbassist Luques Curtis, drummer Corey Fonville and the excellent young alto saxophonist Braxton Cook completed the lineup for this gig. This was a visually, as well as musically, engaging band, with Scott as its heart on both counts.
Scott dedicated "Isadora," which first appeared on Live From Newport (Concord, 2008), to his fiancée Isadora Mendez, who was in the audience. The performance was exquisite, and featured fine solos from Scott and Cook. By contrast, the band's take on Donald Harrison's "Burning" showed how readily the Quintet could deliver a fast, hard bop number, Fonville and Curtis forming a powerhouse rhythm section. For an encore, Scott offered the audience a choice between Monk's "Blue Monk" and Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church In The Wild." The vote being somewhat equivocal, the band played both tunes, much to the delight of the packed club.
Monday, November 26
Monday was (un)officially Bob Belden Day at the Conservatori del Liceu. The arranger, producer and musician gave a lunchtime master class, submitted to a "Before And After" test of his musical knowledge and opinions in conversation with author Ashley Kahn, and then gave a concert with his Animation band. Belden's long experience in jazz gave him a wealth of stories and anecdotes with which to illustrate his talks, but the latest line up of Animation showed that he's still developing and extending his musical horizons even as he acknowledges his musical past.
This is a young band; with the exception of the 56-year- old Belden all of the musicians are under 30. The emphasis throughout this set was on tunes from Transparent Heart (Rare Noise, 2012), which was recorded by this lineup. The group included the title track, which featured a strong extended duet from drummer Matt Young and bass guitarist Jacob Smith, and "Seven Towers," an emotionally stark tune about 9/11 which included emergency services communications recorded on that day. Belden still found time for a couple of old Miles Davis favorites, though: "Bitches Brew" and "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down" got strong performances, with Belden's soprano saxophone and Pete Clagett's trumpet making a sonically elegant partnership.
Tuesday, November 27
For sheer out-and-out fun the standout gig of the week was the almost insanely energetic performance by Fanfare Ciocârlia at Luz de Gas. The band, featuring 12 gypsy musicians from northern Romania, played a set filled with up-tempo tunes, each one aimed fairly and squarely at pushing the audience's pleasure buttons. While the approach may have left the music a little short on variety, in this live context it worked. The audience responded to the band's rhythmic heartbeat from the off, dancing wildly, cheering, joining in with vocal refrains and generally displaying behavior not usually seen at a jazz festivalcrowd surfing and stage invading with gusto.
Wednesday, November 28
The Brad Mehldau Trio brought a more considered and thoughtful approach to the main hall of L'Auditori on Wednesday night; a little too considered, perhaps, as the performance was high on technical skill but rather limited dynamically despite drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier''s best efforts. Pianist Mehldau played beautifully, especially on Lennon and McCartney's "And I Love Her," and the audience responded warmly, even if stage invasions were never in the cards.