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Carolina International Jazz Festival

Wilbert Sostre reports on festival in Carolina, Puerto Rico

The piano was the theme for the 7th edition of the Carolina International Jazz Festival in Puerto Rico. This Jazz Festival is a creation of the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico and its Major Jose Carlos Aponte Dalmau. Those present in the two days fest had the opportunity to enjoy the music of some of the best pianists from Puerto Rico.

Friday, August 12

After a short video introduction about the history of the piano, musical director and professor Angel Torres started the fest with a student orchestra from the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Carolina (Carolina Arts School). With compositions from pianists Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington and Michel Legrand, the arrangements were diverse, including funk, mambo jazz, Puerto Rican bomba, plena and Cuban danzon. All of these students have the talent to become the next jazz virtuosos from Puerto Rico, but two of them deserve a special mention, alto saxophonist Ashley Nadal and pianist Emilio Mendez.

The second act was the exquisite fusion of jazz with Puerto Rican danza of master pianist Angel David Matos. In a tribute to one of the best pianists from Puerto Rico, Jesus Maria Sanroma, Matos played a medley of three beautiful danzas, “No me toques,” “Margarita” and “Maldito Amor,” accompanied by three of master jazz musicians in their own right, saxophonist/flutist/clarinetist Ricardo Pons, bassist Aldemar Valentin and drummer Hector Matos.

The more traditional jazz sound of pianist/professor Luis Marin was the third act of the night. Listening to Marin’s elegance and flawless improvisations, it was easy to see why he is considered one of the best pianists in the Puerto Rico Jazz scene.

The music diversity continued with the closing act of the night, pianist/composer/violinist Mariano Morales and his group Pikante that includes among others Paoli Mejias on congas, Tommy Villarini on trumpet and Pedro Perez on bass. Morales repertoire included latin jazz, mambo and bomba.

Saturday, August 13

With a similar repertoire but playing even better than the first night, the orchestra from the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Carolina once again were the opening act for the second night of the Carolina International Jazz Fest.

Under a heavy rain, Michel Camilo took the stage to play some of his most recognized compositions including “Island Stomp” and “Caribe.” Camilo’s powerful style and polyrhythmic attack alongside Michael Bowie’s solid bass and the intensity of drummer Cliff Almond is a guarantee of a wonderful jazz experience. Camilo and his trio are actually on tour promoting his new album Mano a Mano.

The closing act of the night and the festival was trumpeter legend Luis “Perico” Ortiz and his Big Band. A Latin jazz music celebration among friends with a parade of piano virtuosos joining the big band starting with Yan Carlo Artime, Michel Camilo, Angel David Matos, Mariano Morales and Luis Marin.

Originally Published