It was “no easy challenge”, in the words of Barcelona’s International Jazz Festival director, Tito Ramoneda, to design an edition to follow last year’s 50th anniversary of the event. Yet The Project, which has organised the festival since 1989, has managed to come up with a line-up that rivals last year’s landmark event and includes both legends and emerging talent on the international jazz scene.
From Brazil, for example, there will be concerts by the likes of Maria Gadú, Adriana Calcanhotto and Djavan (returning to Barcelona 31 years since his last and only appearance at the festival).
Meanwhile, from Cuba, which has always had a presence at the jazz festival, we will see the likes of Cimafunk, one of the best Latin artists in 2019 according to Billboard magazine. Cimafunk can boast such illustrious fans as US actor Susan Sarandon, who said she would be following the new king of groove’s passage through Europe. Also due to perform will be the AfroCuban All Stars of Juan de Marcos, of Buena Vista Social Club fame. However, this year the festival will have to do without the godfather of Cuban Latin jazz, Chucho Valdés.
As for other parts of the planet, the festival will also welcome top African artists, such as Angélique Kidjo, presenting her tribute album to the late Celia Cruz, as well as the mythical Manu Dibango, who famously sued Michael Jackson for plagiarising his Soul Makossa.
New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, is naturally also represented, with the emblematic Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the impetuous trumpet of Christian Scott, the wide-ranging Jon Cleary (performing with John Scofield) and, above all, Wynton Marsalis, with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who will play on February 28 and is the reason why this year’s festival will go on for five months.
Catalonia’s jazz talent is also well-represented at the festival, with Andrea Motis kicking off a series of performances on October 19 in Sant Cugat, with the singer and trumpeter from Sant Andreu set to perform four more times at the festival before November 20, accounting for a total of 3,900 tickets, many of which sold out straight away. Meanwhile, in February, Josep Mas “Kitflus”, Rafael Escoté, Santi Arisa and Max Sunyer will bid farewell to the stage after 40 years with the band Pegasus.
Another anniversary to be celebrated in the festival is 50 years since the legendary concert that Duke Ellington gave alongside the Coral Sant Jordi choir, which the festival’s artistic director, Joan Anton Cararach, described as “one of the great moments in the history of jazz in Catalonia”. Half a century on, that key event will be reprised with the Coral Sant Jordi, now conducted by Oriol Martorell, this time performing with La Locomotora Negra.
However, there are two big names that really stand out in this year’s festival line-up: Herbie Hancock, who finally makes his return to the festival after the organisers have tried for years to tempt him over, and Ron Carter, keyboard player and double bassist, respectively, in Miles Davis’ historic second quintet and the only members still active since Wayne Shorter’s retirement. Both the 79-year-old Hancock and the 82-year-old Carter will be awarded with the gold medal awarded each year by the festival. However, these will not be the only jazzmen from the stable of Miles Davis at the festival’s 51st edition, as Dave Holland – the man who went on to substitute Carter on trumpet – will perform in a trio with Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter.
In all, the festival will offer 55 performances at nine venues (Palau de la Música, L’Auditori, Barts, Teatre Auditori Sant Cugat, Razzmatazz, Apolo, Conservatori del Liceu, Luz de Gas and Harlem Jazz Club). Apart from the artists mentioned, also taking to the stage will be Ludovico Einaudi, Chicuelo & Marco Mezquida, Dorian Wood, Richard Bona & Alfredo Rodríguez, Kyle Eastwood, Martirio & Chano Domínguez, The Campbell Brothers, Lizz Wright, Mark Guiliana, Dave Douglas & Uri Caine and Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry.
What’s more, as in previous years, there will also be the parallel event devoted to flamenco music, De Cajón! Performing will be the likes of Estrella Morente, Las Migas and Tomatito & José Mercé. Meanwhile, the five-month-long jazz fest kicks off on September 28, with Jazz & Food, a free festival at Barcelona’s Moll de la Fusta featuring groups like Itaca Band and Koko-Jean & The Tonics.
Among the masters
Among the festival’s treasures are the master classes at the Conservatori del Liceu given by participating artists. “They are very intimate encounters between the artists and eager young people,” says the festival’s artistic director, Joan Anton Cararach. Such high level artists as Pat Metheny and Maria Schneider have given classes in the past, not to mention the “piano portraits” that Chick Corea did of some of the students in the class he gave. The master classes are free for pupils of the school as well as for people who have bought a ticket for the concert of the artist giving the class, with a 50% discount for students of other music schools.