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Review: The 45th Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival

A world-class festival that's bound to its community

Cecil McBee and Billy Hart, 2013 Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival
Chucho Valdes, 2013 Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival
Ravi Coltrane, 2013 Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival
Richard Bona, 2013 Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival
San Andreu Jazz Band, 2013 Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival

What a difference a year makes. This year’s edition of the 45th Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival was welcomed, as usual, by a respectable level of citywide backing: banners on street-poles throughout downtown; schedules inserted into local papers; posters on the primary sponsor’s beer trucks. But the kind of support that matters most, as any festival producer will tell you, comes down to the number of seats that are filled. Barcelona’s annual festival-taking place in various venues throughout the city from mid-October through December 1st-is back on top after a few years of economic challenges: sold-out and nearly sold-out shows, and over-the-top coverage in local media.

I was there for the first two weeks of this year’s festival. Saxophone Summit, the Coltrane-inspired, three-horn sextet featuring Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane, opened the festival with an intense, church-like power as they delivered music composed by its members, plus a diverse, reworked dose of John Coltrane music, including “Blues Minor,” “Peace On Earth” and “Ole.” The rhythm section-pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart-is as intuitively locked into each other as the music requires. The concert took place in the Teatre-Auditori in the small town of Sant Cugat, a somewhat tony neighborhood only 20 minutes from downtown Barcelona.

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