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

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

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Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival
Barcelona, Spain
November 24-30, 2012
Sometimes picking a few festival highlights is easy. A big name turns on the charm, one or two young Turks announce their arrival on the scene, someone famous steps up at a jam session—the rest is okay, just nothing special. The Barcelona Voll-Damm Internacional Jazz Festival makes the process frustratingly difficult—it's a festival full of highlights, surprises and memorable moments, and the 2012 incarnation—the 44—proved to be no exception. Big names featured in abundance—pianists Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau both gave concerts in the final week; saxophonist Sonny Rollins, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding and singer Melody Gardot all appeared earlier—and some lesser-known acts and more unusual events left their own unforgettable impressions.

The 2012 Barcelona Voll-Damm Internacional Jazz Festival lasted for over a month, from late-October to November 30. Thanks to the imagination of its Artistic Director, Joan Anton Cararach, its programmed mix of events across a range of venues made the most of the city's architectural beauty and ensured that festival-goers could experience visual arts, academic debate, expert insight and the sommelier's craft, as well as jazz of the highest quality. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, in the north-east of Spain. It's a region which is fiercely—and justly—proud of its culture, and Catalan musicians appeared throughout the 2012 program alongside performers from across Europe and America.

Barcelona is home to what might just be the world's loveliest concert hall: the Palau De La Música, as well as the more contemporary L'Auditori concert hall and clubs like Luz de Gas. All of these featured as regular festival venues alongside less obvious spaces such as the Conservatori del Liceu, the Institut Français and the Monvínic restaurant. Without exception, the chosen venues suited the personalities of the performers and their musical styles. This final week of the 2012 festival showcased most of the venues with an array of performances and presentations.

Saturday, November 24


The final Saturday of the festival offered two examples of fusion. In Sala 3 of L'Auditori the Francesco Bearzatti Tinissima Quartet presented Monk & Roll, while later, at Luz de Gas, Catalan bass guitarist Carles Benavent brought jazz and flamenco together.

As the title of Bearzatti's show suggested, this music melded the works of pianist Thelonious Monk with some classic rock rhythms from more recent decades. For some Monk fans this may have bordered on the sacrilegious, but it was done with remarkable inventiveness, great good humor and energetic, skilled, musicianship. The Italian quartet's instrumental lineup of saxophones, clarinet, trumpet, bass and percussion was augmented by the "human effects" of trumpeter Giovanni Falzone—a variety of whistles, finger pops and squeals that fit surprisingly well with the instruments. By the end of the concert it was almost as if "Bemsha Swing" was made to mash up with Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust," "In Walked Bud" proved to be a perfect partner for Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," and, perhaps most surprisingly, "Round Midnight" and The Police's "Walking On The Moon" sounded as if they were made for each other.



Benavent has had a long career including over two decades of work with guitarist Paco De Lucia and Chick Corea. His fusion of flamenco and jazz was notable for some killer grooves, but it also highlighted the romantic and emotionally engaging playing of this most distinctive instrumentalist. Benavent played a five-string, fretted bass guitar—designed and built by Barcelona luthier Jerzy Drozd—mixing Jaco Pastorius' fluidity and energy with the melodic sensibility of a flamenco guitarist to create his own unique sound, characterized by a lightness of touch, rich chordal play and swift, delicate, single-note runs.

Keyboardist Roger Mas and drummer Roger Blàvia—who both appear on Benavent's Un, Dos, Tres (Bebyne Records, 2012)—proved to be excellent partners for the bassist. The gentle "Mario" and "Flamenquillo" highlighted the warmth of Benavent's playing, while Mas' "Novembre" gave the keyboardist a chance to take the lead role as Benavent and Blàvia locked together as a tight, funky, rhythm section.

Sunday, November 25


Sunday was the day of the young Turks, a day when any worries about the lack of up-and- coming jazz talent were blown away by music that harked back to the big bands and hard bop outfits of yesterday while looking forward to new directions.

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