11/24/11

Mayaguez Jazz Festival: Local Talent Reigns

Report from jazz festival in Puerto Rico

The Mayaguez Jazz Festival is one of the most important jazz festivals in Puerto Rico and the only one in the West area since 2004. In contrast to the other major PR Jazz Fest, the Mayaguez Jazz Fest is a platform for Puerto Rican musicians to display their talents.

Friday November 18

The 2011 edition was dedicated to a couple of young jazz musicians—trumpeter Daniel Ramirez and saxophonist Jesus O'Farril. On the first night the opening act was Mike Arroyo, a Puerto Rican guitar player and part of a new modality in PR called Christian Jazz—music with a positive message but without sacrificing the quality of a good jazz group. Accompanying Mike were Manolo Navarro on piano, Carlos Torres on bass, and the legendary drummer Jimmy Rivera. Arroyo’s repertoire included original songs like Initial Flight, a piece with Latin rhythms, and nice versions of classics like “God Bless the Child.” Jimmy Rivera closed Mike's presentation with an impressive drum solo.

After a short ceremony of dedication to Mayaguez natives Daniel Ramirez and Jesus O'Farril, Ramirez took the stage. This young musician captivated the audience with his sheer energy and creative improvisations. There is no doubt Ramirez will be one of the future jazz virtuosos from Puerto Rico. He already has a vast experience playing with some of the best Puerto Rican jazz musicians. Ramirez and his group played some complex and interesting originals with plenty of tempo changes and excellent improvisations.

Saturday, November 19

Jesus O'Farril was the opening act for the second night of the Mayaguez Jazz Festival. Accompanied by a group extraordinaire musicians; tenor sax Norberto Tiko Ortiz, bassist Gabriel Rodriguez, guitarrist Luis Bonilla, drummer Mario Pereira, all students and professors from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, the presentation was an exchange of virtuosic improvisations and pure energy. The repertoire included pieces in the straight-ahead jazz tradition as well as compositions influenced by Bomba rhythms.

Flutist virtuoso Kalani Trinidad was the second act on Saturday night. Trinidad is a musician who possesses a beautiful tone and great fluidity on his improvisations. He has the ability to convey a diversity of emotions on his playing. Trinidad presented his debut album Crossing Bridges. Accompanying Trinidad on this night were his father Richard Trinidad on piano, Hector Matos on drums and Ricky Rodriguez on bass.

Sunday, November 20

The closing acts for the last day of the fest were: Bluzzero, the only group in PR that plays original blues in Spanish; Soundstage, a group of musicians from the radio station Vid 90.3, the only jazz station in Puerto Rico and creators of the Mayaguez Jazz Festival; and Jan Carlos Artime, an excellent cuban pianist living in Puerto Rico.

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