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Live Reviews

Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival: Barcelona, Spain, November 24-30, 2012

By Published: December 17, 2012
Earlier in the evening the first Some Enchanted Pairings from author Will Friedwald and Head Sommelier Cèsar Cànovas took place at Monvínic. The restaurant has become established as the home for some of the festival's most unusual and fascinating events and this was no exception. For each presentation (the second was on Friday) Friedwald selected two versions of six classic songs and spoke about the history of the songs and the different recordings. To accompany each pair of songs Cànovas—voted Best Sommelier In Spain in 2011—chose a wine, giving a brief explanation of his choice before the audience listened and tasted.

Friedwald's intensive knowledge of and enthusiasm for the American Songbook was clear. His stories about the songs and about the versions he had chosen were engaging and informative, delving deep into some of the more esoteric aspects of the jazz story. Cànovas put much thought into his selections, matching the lyric of a song to the flavors and sensations of the wine—hence the sound of "Stardust" sung by Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
1899 - 1981
piano
and then Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
1903 - 1977
vocalist
was matched by a Makedonia wine from Greece, while Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
and Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
1919 - 2006
vocalist
's versions of "Night And Day" was accompanied a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Thursday, November 29


Spike Wilner
Spike Wilner
Spike Wilner

piano
's lunchtime master class at the Conservatori combined insights into the history of jazz piano, illustrated by the pianist's arrangements of tunes from Willie "The Lion" Smith
Willie
Willie "The Lion" Smith
1897 - 1973
piano
and James P. Johnson
James P. Johnson
James P. Johnson
1894 - 1955
piano
, among others, with further insights gained from his co-ownership of Smalls jazz club in New York. Wilner's musicianship came over strongly, as did his philosophy on jazz club management, at least as it applies to Smalls. Interestingly, Wilner also spoke of his plans for the club's music policy, both in terms of the use of new technologies and its potential for impacting positively on musicians' income streams.

It was France's turn to provide the entertainment on Thursday evening, hosting an event at the Institut Français which combined visual images and music; more specifically, the photographs of Guy Le Querrec (pictured left) and the music of reed players Michel Portal
Michel Portal
Michel Portal
b.1935
composer/conductor
and Louis Sclavis
Louis Sclavis
Louis Sclavis
b.1953
reeds
, bassist Henri Texier
Henri Texier
Henri Texier
b.1945
bass
and drummer Christophe Marguet in a project titled L'Oeil De L'Éléphant. The combination worked superbly. Le Querrec, a Magnum photographer whose iconic photos include images of singer Nina Simone
Nina Simone
Nina Simone
1933 - 2003
piano
and trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, has an eye for the unguarded moment as well as an ability to capture artists in performance.

This performance of L'Oeil De L'Éléphant grouped Le Querrec's photographs together in sections with titles such as "Feet and Hands," "On The Trail Of Big Foot" (about a journey to commemorate the Battle of Wounded Knee) and "Optical Illusions" (accompanied by bassist Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
' "Fables Of Faubus"). Texier and Marguet captured not only the rhythm of the changing images, but also the rhythms within the images. Sclavis and Portal ably reflected the emotions displayed in the pictures with their own playing: Sclavis concentrated on saxophones while Portal switched smoothly from saxophone to bass clarinet to bandoneon. If there was ever a definitive demonstration of the empathy between photography and music, this was it.

Friday, November 30


The prospect of hearing one of the world's finest trios in one of its loveliest music venues made this Friday night concert one of the most eagerly awaited of the festival. No pressure there, then. When the Chick Corea Trio took to the stage of the sold-out Palau de la Música the three musicians—Corea, bassist Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
b.1972
bass
and drummer Brian Blade
Brian Blade
Brian Blade
b.1970
drums
—certainly didn't look like a band under pressure. They looked like three musicians out to have a good time. Expectations were, if anything, exceeded by their set, notable for the musicians' empathy, the exceptionally high standard of their playing and the varied moods of the music.


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