15

Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival 2013

Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival 2013
Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival
Various Venues
Barcelona
October 29-November 3, 2013

A short quote, repeated to me more than once over the course of a few days in Barcelona, proved to be at the heart and soul of the 45th Barcelona Voll-Damm Internacional Jazz Festival. It goes something like this—"On the day that I die, shed no tears. Play my music, eat chocolate, drink rum and dance." So declared Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes, who died at the age of 94 in March 2013.

Rumba Para Bebo

The Festival's Artistic Director, Joan Anton Cararach—an old friend of Bebo's—and Valdés' son and fellow pianist, Chucho Valdes brought this heart and soul to life with Rumba Para Bebo. This was a most ambitious production—a dizzying mix of jazz, dance, classical music and all-round good vibes that gave Bebo's friends, family and collaborators the chance to celebrate his life and which sent the sell-out crowd into raptures.

Rumba Para Bebo took place on the Tuesday night of the festival's second week at a new festival venue known as BARTS. True to Bebo's wishes, free chocolates and shots of rum were handed out to audience members as they arrived. Dancing was much in evidence as well—on and off stage. Tears were shed, too. The emotional impact of the night was so great that a few tears were only to be expected, a reflection of the love so many in the theatre had for this star of Cuban music.

Chucho Valdés was at the center of the concert, with his band the Afro-Cuban Messengers, playing solo or joining other musicians. His duo performance of "Bebo's Blues" with bassist Javier Colina was one of the highlights of the concert, but there were many others. Jerry Gonzalez' performance of "Bésame Mucho" on flugelhorn; the singing of Bebo's daughter Mayra Caridad Valdes; the pianists Lázara Cachao, Javier Massó "Caramelo" and, from the classical world, Mauricio Vallina (who performed pieces by Cuban composers Ernesto Lecuona and Ignacio Cervantes), all stood out. Another pianist, Omar Sosa, performed with Malongo, a vocal and percussion group. Clad in white, the troupe's striking visual image matched the intensity of the performance.

The finale was powerful, a stage full of the musicians and dancers (and a few extra participants who managed to make their way onto the stage as well) clapping, dancing and singing their hearts out. The audience did much the same, creating a wave of energy throughout the hall. This energy was almost palpable: as Cararach revealed a few days later, it was so strong that the venue manager feared for the structural safety of the stage. The song was "Rumba para Bebo," written by Chucho after he dreamed that his father was singing him the song.

Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers took to the stage for the second time the following night, this time selling out the beautiful Palau De La Música. The Messengers proved to be a tight, strongly rhythmical, unit. The line-up—Valdés on piano, Gastón Joya on bass, Rodney Barreto on drums, Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé on batas and vocals and Yaroldy Abreu on percussion—ensured that the emphasis on rhythm was given primacy, but these virtuoso players also displayed a talent for melody and an ability to produce gentler, more romantic, music. This aspect of the Afro-Cuban Messengers was at its finest in a trio performance by Valdés, Joya and Barreto, when Joya's arco bass playing exceeded Valdés' piano in its emotional impact.

Valdés also took obvious pleasure in referencing Dave Brubeck, inserting lengthy sections of Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk" and Paul Desmond's "Take 5" into one of his solos. Three encores closed the evening, following a standing ovation from the crowd. The second, a funky jam band number, featured Joya on electric bass guitar. The third featured the dance stylings of vocalist and bata player Bombalé—dancing to the rear of the auditorium, then returning to the stage for a few somersaults, with an impressive level of energy that belied the fact that he'd already been on stage for over two hours.

Clubs, Bars and Masterclasses

Away from the major venues and the big name international stars, the Barcelona Jazz Festival has always offered a series of small-scale events that have their own particular charms. These events might showcase local bands, give students a chance to learn from their heroes in masterclasses, or blend wine tasting with the chance to hear musicians talking about musicians. They're always worth seeking out: the best things can come in the smallest packages.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall Live Reviews Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 20, 2017
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: June 18, 2017
Read Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater Live Reviews Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: June 17, 2017
Read ELBJAZZ 2017 Live Reviews ELBJAZZ 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 15, 2017
Read Mike Westbrook at Bury St. Edmunds Festival Live Reviews Mike Westbrook at Bury St. Edmunds Festival
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens" Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground" Live Reviews The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Jon Cleary at The Ardmore Music Hall" Live Reviews Jon Cleary at The Ardmore Music Hall
by Mike Jacobs
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "SFJAZZ Collective at the Music Box Supper Club" Live Reviews SFJAZZ Collective at the Music Box Supper Club
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 28, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.