A true highlight of the Parque Centenario concerts was the opportunity to enjoy the artistry of perhaps the country's most notable living jazz artist, bassist Jorge López Ruiz and his quartet. Active since the early 1960s, the 83-year old veteran is a walking Encyclopedia of Argentine jazz. In his homeland, he's been regarded as the equal to the likes of Charles Mingus and Ray Brown. One of his albums was release as Amor Buenos Aires
in the U.S. on the Catalyst label in 1977. His acclaimed 1967 album El Grito
(The Scream) was considered a decade later so threatening by the military dictatorship that it was banned. The bassist's set of standards and originals was denoted by unaffected virtuosity and intuitive interplay with his supporting cast, including the up-and-coming guitar talent Tomás Fraga. The genial Ruiz's daughter Cecilia, a dark-toned vocalist, was a featured guest.
My one concession to the festival's more heralded programming was to attend the aforementioned Sunday afternoon solo piano concert by Jacky Terrasson, performed in the gilded confines of the Salón Dorado in the fabled Teatro Colón, one of the world's top five opera houses. Without ever uttering a word, the pianist unleashed a subconscious torrent of keyboard artistry that included his singular takes of such standards as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Caravan" and "St. Thomas."
The annual Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival provides an uncommon opportunity to discover new talent in one of the world's most welcoming and culturally rewarding cities.