The Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest: March 29 – April 1,2012

Wilbert Sostre reports on performances at recent jazz festival in San Juan

Abraham Laboriel in performance at 2012 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival
Paco De Lucia in performance at 2012 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival
Poncho Sanchez in performance at 2012 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 22nd edition of the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest started exactly at 8pm Thursday, March 29. (Usually this fest takes place the last week of May).

The opening act for this edition was the Puerto Rican saxophonist Jose Heredia and his group IQ (International Quintet). Heredia’s International Quintet opened with a funky version of the Miles Davis classic “So What.” The group, that includes the excellent pianist Angel David Mattos, also played some original compositions, the ballad “Jabez Prayer,” and the plena/jazz fusion “Graceful” with special guests, Humberto Ramirez on trumpet and the pleneros Charlie Pizarro and Rafael Falu.

The night continued with contagious rhythms and always impressive virtuosity of two of the best musicians in the jazz scene for the past few decades, percussionist extraordinaire Giovanni Hidalgo and master pianist Michel Camilo. Accompanied by bassist Lincoln Goines, and under a heavy rain, these two jazz legends played the compositions “Yes,” “The Sidewinder,” “You and Me,” and “Rumba Pa’ Ti” from their album Mano a Mano.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The second night started with the jazz of another young talent from Puerto Rico, bassist Agustin Barreto and the Fusion Quartet. The name of the group says it all, there is no doubt the major influence for this amazing musician is the jazz/rock fusion of the 1970’s. His compositions and sound in “Boooo,” “Apt. 415,” and “Furia” are very similar to fusion bassists like Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius. Even the name of one of Barreto’s compositions-“Jaco-me”-pays tribute to the great Pastorius.

After the powerful music of Agustin Barreto, the mood mellowed down with the music of pianist Ariadna Castellanos. Coming all the way from Spain, Castellanos’ music has a distinct flamenco flavor, but also has mediterranean and Middle East influences. The group, all students from Berklee College of Music, includes musicians from Palestine, Israel and Spain, as well flutist Kalani Trinidad from Puerto Rico.

One year in the waiting, (this was one of the acts suspended last year due to the rain), Dee Dee Bridgewater finally took the stage and captivated the audience with her charm, sense of humor and amazing voice in a tribute to one of the true jazz legends-Ms. Lady Day, Billie Holiday. The presentation included excellent arrangements by Puerto Rican musical director and pianist Edsel Gomez of classics “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Lover Man,” “Them There Eyes,” “Fine and Mellow” and a gospel version of “God Bless the Child.”

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday night came and still no suspension due to rain, and the first act was another group of amazing Puerto Rican musicians, Negroni’s Trio with special guest, saxophonist Ed Calle.

This edition of the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest was dedicated to one of the best and most sought after bassists in jazz, Abraham Laboriel. His pleasant personality, sensibility and high energy made the audience sing, laugh and even cry throughout his presentation that included “Everything new is old again”, “Partita,” and the gospel influenced “Safely in your Presence.” Laboriel even composed a song dedicated to Puerto Rico (El corazon de Puerto Rico) two hours before his presentation.

The closing act for this night was the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, another act that was suspended due to rain in the 2011 edition of the fest. Sanchez’s version of “Soul Bourgeoise,” “Con Sabor Latino,” “Groovin’ High” and a Chano Pozo medley, brought the Latin jazz flavor to the fest in a tribute to the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, a musical marriage credited with the creation of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

With the bigger audience of the four nights, and finally no rain, Sunday evening started with the presentation of some of the best students currently on Berklee College of Music, under the musical direction of Professor Eguie Castrillo. All of them are excellent musicians, but two deserve a special mention, both from Puerto Rico-percussionist and singer Zayra Ocasio and flutist Kalani Trinidad.

Mario Parmisano Trio took the audience to Argentina with the elegance of his tango jazz in a tribute to the music of Astor Piazzola, the father of modern tango. The audience enjoyed some of Piazzola most recognized compositions like “Libertango,” and “Oblivion.”

And at last what everyone was waiting for, the presentation of guitar and flamenco virtuoso Paco de Lucia. Even though Paco demonstrated at time throughout the night he can still play the fast and impressive melodic runs some people remember from his recordings with Al de Meola and John McLaughlin, tonight’s presentation was a homage to the fabulous music of flamenco, a music Paco took all around the world with his guitar.

Besides Paco’s excellent rasgado technique, some of the highlights of the night were the “cantaores” (flamenco singers) Duquende and David de Jacoba and the “bailaor” (flamenco dancer) Farruco.