Romance and music in Vitoria-Gasteiz

For the 39th time this year the festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz was held and for me it was probably the 20th time to be there, as I do like the atmosphere in the place and of course I met my wife there 13 years ago … so again, this year we went for romantic and musical reasons and to meet friends and musicians.

As we went only for the last two nights of music there, we started with clarinettist Anat Cohen, who I had never seen live before and therefore was looking forward to add this experience to the list of concerts I had the pleasure listening to: and I did enjoy her show, especially her extended version of La Vie En Rose, in which her soloing was incredible. She was supported by a great band, featuring young pianist Gadi Lehavi, bass player Reinier Elizade Ruano and Jeff Ballard on drums, who on the night before performed at the same stage with Brad Mehldau. Great players who all contributed to make the show a success.

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The main act on that night were Estrella Morente & Nino Josele – performing the music of their album Amar En Paz, which is basically a collection of Brazilian songs performed in Spanish language with a shot of Flamenco added to the mix … great! Estrella for me is one of the leading singers in Spain and sounded immaculate as always and Nino Josele is just incredible and his solo performance in the middle of the set will be remembered for a while … sometimes it sounded like 2 or 3 guitars at the same time …magic. Outstanding Jobim’s Dindi and Dolores Duran’s Soledad and an encore featuring Anat Cohen.

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Saturday July 18th was the day of the European premiere of the James Brandon Lewis Trio performing the music of his new OKeh album Days of FreeMan and about 500 people made it to the Teatro Principal in the early evening. The Trio, with Luke Stewart on bass and Warren ‘Trae’ Crudup on drums, went straight into the grooves of the new record and turned the heat up! James was fully in command of the directions the music went, leading from the front and directing his companions with short movements by his hand … almost with a hard rock feel into Lament for JLew, then into the beautiful ballad that is Don Cherry’s Bamako Love and last but not least into the straighter hip-hop grooves of Boom Bap Bop, at one point slightly going into some Latin rhythms within that song, only to hit the audience even harder when getting back into the original groove. The 90 minutes of the show passed by much too fast… a good sign when you leave wanting for more …. And a great start to the new project by James, who is surely one of the most promising young jazz acts today.

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The festival was closed by a duo performance by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock … and if you know the two duo live records they released 1978 and 1979, then expectations were probably high. But the two piano and keyboard giants didn’t go out and simply repeated what they did in the late 7o’s – they added some keyboards to the mix and actually integrated these in some of the numbers – reflections on careers which had more to offer than great piano playing …. And even so some of the keyboard improvisations were a bit too ambient for me, they pulled it off somehow and especially when they simply played the two acoustic pianos … then standards like I’ll Remember April or Milestones became interesting and at times surprising. Of course there were some of the hits as well … Maiden Voyage, La Fiesta (the only tracks they performed as well in the late 70’s) and Cantaloupe Island and they brought the audience to a standing ovation. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but mine for sure.

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See you again next year, when Vitoria-Gasteiz jazz will celebrate its 40th anniversary!

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