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Barcelona Voll-Damm Jazz Festival 2013

Bruce Lindsay By

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Laia Badrenas and Clau De Funk played a hugely enjoyable set, getting the crowd clapping along almost from the start. This was unpretentious, groove laden jazz, soul and R&B played with crowd-pleasing enthusiasm by a talented young band. Badrenas herself was visually striking and vocally strong, while alto saxophonist Josep Valldeneu proved to be a versatile and emotionally-engaging instrumentalist. Classic songs—including a funky version of "(For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People," a slinky take on Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something Good" and a high-energy encore of "Blame It On The Boogie" and James Brown's "Sex Machine"—ticked all the right boxes for an audience out for a good time.

Masterclasses have proven to be a popular part of the Barcelona Jazz Festival in the past and the extended 2013 program featured 18 of them. The classes, free of charge, were held in the Conservatori Del Liceu. Two masterclasses took place during my visit: a class on music journalism given by Ted Panken and Ashley Kahn and a Cuban percussion masterclass led by Yaroldy Abreu from the Afro-Cuban Messengers.

Panken and Kahn spoke, in English, with a small but enthusiastic group of music students on various aspects of music journalism in the contemporary jazz scene. The pair provoked some intelligent questioning and debate on subjects such as the nature of criticism, the importance for both writers and musicians of a knowledge of the music's history, the best sources of information about that history and whether a music journalist needed to be a musician. Both men agreed that it could well help, although Panken acknowledged that he was not a musician and Kahn revealed that he played guitar ..."for an audience of one."

Abreu's percussion masterclass took place in the Conservatori's main auditorium, to an audience of a couple of hundred people. Abreu was an enthusiastic teacher, although he seemed more comfortable demonstrating his talents than discussing theory. He was generous in giving students the chance to question him and to join him on stage to perform. Around 10 or 11 students joined him at various times and in various combinations, ranging from a piano and percussion duo to a septet. The quietly-spoken Abreu impressed the audience with his mastery of a range of percussion instruments. Most impressively, he performed a bebop solo on the most personal of instruments, his own head.

As week two of the 45th Barcelona Voll-Damm Internacional Jazz Festival drew to a close there were already plenty of highlights to choose from. For many, Rumba Para Bebo will stay long in the memory. The new jazz generation looked pretty impressive, with Fernández, Motis, and Clau De Funk delivering strong performances, while Chucho Valdés and Terraza both created moments of sheer beauty.

Another notable feature of the 45th Festival was its presence in the city. It was impossible to walk in any of Barcelona's main streets and squares without being aware of the banners advertising the festival's major concerts and many of the artists received attention from Catalan and the wider Spanish media, including major newspapers and TV stations. Ticket sales were extremely good, with capacity and near-capacity houses the norm for every concert I attended. The 2013 Festival runs for six weeks in total, from October 19 to December 1. The Euro might still be weak, but in Barcelona the jazz is strong.

Photo Credit
All photos: Bruce Lindsay


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