Jazz Vitoria-Gasteiz 2013

Music and Food could be the theme for this festival – always a great programme in a relaxed atmosphere and always great food – for example at Sagartoki, which has for a few years now been voted the restaurant with the best Tortilla de Patatas in Spain ….and has some Pintxos of the highest quality.

We joined the festival on the second day to get to see Bill Frisell with his Big Sur sextet, but I started the music day with Craig Taborn solo – a collection of complex improvised musical miniatures: dark and beautiful, needing all the listeners concentration not to miss the richness of this music.

Opening for Frisell was Ibrahim Maalouf – not with his usual group, but with a band put together for a project that is a homage to Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour l’echafaud and to Miles Davis. He has a great combo to record and perform this cinematic music, featuring Mark Turner on sax, Frank Woeste on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Clarence Penn on drums.

Bill Frisell came on stage at past 11 pm and started to perform the music of Big Sur with a long suite of several pieces from the album, which has the same line-up as the concert: Carrie Rodriguez and Jenny Scheinmann on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, Hank Roberts on cello and Rudy Royston on drums. The compositions are so complex, but still with a simple beauty and a quietness that revokes images of the landscapes the music is based on, that it was for many people to difficult to listen to it at that time of the night and they left – a programming mistake, Ibrahim, whose music was much more powerful and energetic, should have played last. Anyway, It didn’t take anything away for me and I enjoyed every second of the concert.

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The second day started for me with Ben Williams Sound Effect, the band of the young bass player which featured Taylor Eigsti on piano, Markus Strickland on saxes, Matt Stevens on guitar and John Davis on drums – a great jazz gig with some incredible playing, most of all from the leader and Taylor, who is a young pianist I truly like.

Jacky Terrasson was the first on the main stage that day – performing the music from his album Gouache and he brought with him a bunch of special guests like French jazz legend Michel Portal and Cecile McLorin-Salvant, a new jazz singer which is causing some waves at the moment. And she deserved the applause she got – a great voice and amazing control. All in all a very good concert.

Which was followed by a real great one form Melody Gardot, who so far never disappointed me with her live concerts …. maybe this time she talked a bit too much, but overall she is a great live performer with great songs and a really good band. The repertoire was mainly from her latest record The Absence, but there was some of the earlier two recordings, which I think are stronger. And she performed 2 new tracks, which got more of a blues feel and will be on her new album .. great material and I am looking forward to the new record once it is ready.

Thursday – pianist Francesco Tristano, whom I had seen so far only once in a more classical context at the Yellow Lounge in Madrid, performed in the Teatro Principal with Bachar Khalife on percussion and Pascal Schumacher on vibes and delivered the best concert of the afternoon series: a surprising subtle, but powerful and groovy music, with minimalistic tendencies and Francesco playing the role of the bass as well as the pianist – from supporting the soli of Pascal to improvising on the piano himself, he moved on his keyboards effortless between the two roles. Fantastic!

The main hall featured Tom Harrell as the first act and he gave with his quintet a great and memorable performance of his music. Still one of the most beautiful trumpet sounds around. Then came the Branford Marsalis Quartet and delivered probably the best jazz gig so far of this year – Joey Caldrazzo is a powerhouse on the piano, Eric Revis a creative bass player and Justin Faulkner one of the best drummers in the world, with Branford keeping it all together and pushing them forward, no matter whether it is one of his compositions or Cheek to Cheek they are playing. This is swinging, improvised jazz at its best and the audience of around 3000 went absolutely crazy when they ended the show long past midnight with St. James Infirmary with a New Orleans touch ……

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We started the last day of the festival with a great meal and some really good Rioja wine ….then off to see Antonio Sanchez and his group Migration. Antonio is a great drummer, no question about that – whether that means there needs to be a drum solo in every song they play is up for discussion … A good group of musicians, but after Branford the night before (and having the same instrumental line-up) it was just not what I wanted to hear at that moment and so I left after 40 minutes …

And went to see Chick Corea and the Vigil – a group that bridges somehow what Chick does with Return To Forever and what he does with his acoustic bands. I love Chick and to hear new music by him is always a pleasure and the group he has to perform these new songs is pretty incredible: Christian McBride on bass, Tim Garland on saxes, Marcus Gilmore on drums and Charles Altura on guitar.

Paco de Lucia and his group were the last act of the festival and the one the packed auditorium was waiting for. And rightly so – what Paco can do on his instrument is beyond words to describe, his group is tight and they perform their Flamenco with such passion and emotion, it is impossible not to be touched. And when Paco and his group were joined by Chick Corea at the end of the night, it was one of these magic moments that happen when great players jam and are having a good time. Unforgettable.

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Better go on a diet now … for the food only, not for jazz.

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