local and international music

January offered a few treats in terms of local musicians performing and I took the chance to go and see pianist Juan Sebastian Vazquez celebrating his 27th birthday at the Bogui Jazz Club in presence of a few special guests. His trio, with him on keys, Francisco Lopez on bass and Daniel Garcia on drums invited first trumpet player Raynald Colom to join them and later the Lyra Quartet, featuring Claudia Perez on viola, Jennifer Dávila and Elina Sitnikava on violin as well as Cristina Arista on cello!! They started as a trio, performing Juan Sebastian’s beautiful compositions as well as a bit of Mehldau and some Fred Hersch (in a wonderful arrangement for the full group with strings) and some more of Juan’s pieces, which fitted in with the covers perfectly. He showcased his unique talents as a pianist with incredible skills for improvisation as well as composition and arrangement. A young musician worth to keep following.


Second on the list was a few days later at the Café Central one of my favourite musicians here in Spain, Pablo Martin Caminero, who with his quintet of Moises Sanchez on piano, Ariel Brínguez on saxophone, Toni Belenguer on trombone and Michael Olivera on drums, performed some music from Pablo’s previous recordings as well as some new tracks from the forthcoming album ‘Bost’. Pablo’s new compositions are truly jazz pieces, but rooted in flamenco as well and are powerful and beautiful, with surprising changes and remarkable little melodies. As with Juan Sebastian, Pablo Martin is a local Spanish musician who deserves wider international recognition. Once the new album is out, I will review it here.

New music – on disc, LP or digital:

Jeff Ballard / Fairgrounds – drummer Ballard releases with ‘Fairgrounds’ only his second album under his own name, after the critically acclaimed ‘Time’s Tales’ from 2013 and, even so it is a different kind of album, this one will gather most likely the same great reviews. Having recorded this album with Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals, Kevin Hays on keyboards and vocals and Reid Anderson on electronics (with some help from Pete Rende on keys, Chris Cheek and Mark Turner on saxes) this is a truly modern, groove, jazz, rock inspired album that is reminiscent of early Weather Report recordings, without copying them, but trying to create spontaneously new songs, let them develop within the group and enjoy the freedom of this process. As this is based on a live recording from an earlier tour the group did, the spontaneous process is still all there to be heard despite some editing … a strong debut for this group and an even stronger recommendation to go out and see/ hear them live. Fascinating!

Ketil Bjornstad / Rainbow Sessions (New Edition) – this wonderful box set of solo piano miniatures of touching beauty was originally released as a limited edition in 2006 and has since been my travel companion on every trip I did .. there is no better music to listen to and constantly discover new nuances or little hidden melodies and at the same time completely relax and forget everything around you, but keep being alert to the music. Now this box set has been re-issued by the Norwegian Grappa label and they added another solo disc to it, with recordings from 2012 to 2017, as the original 3 discs all done with Jan Erik Kongshaug as the recording engineer at his Rainbow Studio. Piano music at its best … somewhere situated between jazz and classical music, this is a collection of recordings I can highly recommend to everyone who loves music that can touch the soul of the listener. Timeless masterpieces.

R.I.P. Joseph Jarman (1937 – 2019)

Reed player Jarman was an important part of the Art ensemble of Chicago and I was lucky enough to have seen them many times from the early 1970’s until the early 90’s … always in awe about the pure energy the band expressed in their concerts, the raw expression of emotions. These shows will be unforgettable! Rest in Peace!


I remember Hargrove

This year’s early January trip to New York was not only because of the Jazz Congress, some meetings and to see and hear some music, but as well about attending the memorial concert for Roy Hargrove, which was held at JALC’s Rose Theatre on January 9th. Christian McBride, the MC of the night, was amazing in the choice of his words, in his jokes that explained what kind of man Roy was, in his praise for the human being, composer, trumpeter und occasional singer – full of love and respect for a fellow musician with whom he played early in his career. Musical proceedings started with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis playing a joyful second line walking through the audience onto the stage. This was followed by the Roy Hargrove Big Band, whose sole album ‘Emergence’ I had released in 2009 on EmArCy, and they performed with trumpeters Theo Croker and Giveton Gelin songs from that record. A variety of quintets originally led by Hargrove followed and featured an array of new and big names and legends, all performing Roy’s compositions, including the famous ‘Strasbourg/Saint Denis’ from the album ‘earfood’, this one featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, who as well performed it here. Before the night was over, we did hear many great trumpet players, featuring, beside others, Jon Faddis, Freddie Hendrix, Jeremy Pelt and Terence Blanchard. Singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini and Norah Jones left us speechless and touched, especially Gambarini’s version of ‘I remember Clifford’, which, with new lyrics, became the theme of the night: ‘I remember Hargrove’! There were over 200 musicians participating and paying their tributes … his Grammy-winning band Crisol, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Orchestra and of course the celebrated soul outfit RH Factor, which performed some of their hits, featuring rapper Common, singer Stephanie McKay on the wonderful “Forget Regret” and, of course, Renee Neufville the original vocalist of that band. This celebration of the life and work of Roy Hargrove was surely an unforgettable event in many ways: 5 hours of music for one of the leading musicians of our time, a celebration of his music and collaborations. But as well a celebration of the music genre we call jazz, a powerful statement of its validity in these times and of its strength and importance.

In terms of music New York is always rewarding and so it was as well for this trip – starting with the incredible Kurt Elling performing at Birdland a program he calls ‘Heroes’, which pays tribute to some of the most important singers and those influential to him: Jon Hendricks, Oscar Brown, jr and many others. With a band featuring Stu Mindeman on piano, Clark Sommers on bass, Ulysses Owens on drums and special guests from Australia James Morrison on trumpet and trombone as well as Troy Roberts on sax, he run through the classics with humour and style, always being himself and performing on the highest level. Fully deserving the standing ovation of the packed house.

On Sunday I had 3 shows on my list, starting in the afternoon with a showcase at the Rizzoli Bookstore by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra. What an amazing and powerful performance! This in the last year has become my favourite Big Band for many reasons: Leonhart is not only a great writer, but a fantastic arranger as well, as the show pointed out again: a mix of his own compositions (from ‘The Painted Lady Suite’ debut album of the band) to arrangements of songs from Spinal Tap and the Wu Tang Clan, to name a few … performed with an energy and fun, that is second to none! Great soloist rounded up the overall strong performance and I can’t wait for their second album to drop later in the year.

Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider performed as part of the Global Fest music from their latest record ‘Dreamers’, a Grammy nominated beauty of an album. Singer Herrera and her fellow musicians, Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen on violin; Nicholas Cords on viola and Michael Nicolas on cello, with some help from percussionist Mathias Kunzli, dug deep into the Latin American songbook and performed outstanding versions of ‘Balderrama’ and ‘La Aurora de Nueva York’ amongst many others. Herrera in top form with vocals that cut right into the emotions of the listener. On CD and live definitely worth checking out!!!

Last on Sunday was Chilean singer and guitarist Camila Meza’s late show at the Jazz Standard. The music mainly came from her forthcoming new album ‘Ambar’ and is an eclectic mix of Latin standards, own compositions and covers. The Nectar Orchestra features beside the singer and guitar player Meza Edin Ladin on piano, Noam Wiesenberg on bass and as arranger of the strings, Ofri Nehemya on drums, as well as Tomoko Omura, Fung Chern Hwei on violin; Karen Waltuch on viola and Brian Sanders on cello. Highlight of the second set for me was her rendition of ‘This Is Not America’, with a classy guitar solo and a powerful overall sound by the band. One to watch out for! The rest of the trip were meetings and running the international panel at the Jazz Congress 2019 and the fitting tribute to Roy. I am looking already forward to my next trip to the city of jazz.