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The Voll-Damm International Jazz Fest is back for the 44th time, bringing a roster of international acts to Barcelona venues such as the Apolo and Palau de la Musica. The festival will run from October 30th through November 30th, with artists from Spain, Portugal, Australia, the US, Italy, and France.
You’re probably familiar with the Buena Vista Social Club and Earth, Wind and Fire, but here are two more acts you don’t want to miss. Iconic the world over, but still occasionally under the radar to non-jazz listeners–meet Tommy Emmanuel and Paolo Fresu.
Tommy Emmanuel originally hails from Australia. At the age of 55, he has been playing professionally since he was ten years old–his country’s equivalent of Child Services at one point took the band off the road because they were technically violating child labour laws. These days, he plays 300 concerts per year, including, last year, at Gibson guitar guru Les Paul’s 80th birthday celebration. (Look him up on YouTube.) Each of his ten fingers seems to have a mind of its own, on everything from plaintive classical-guitar versions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow, to the guitar-slapping percussive tune “Mombasa,” inspired by African drum rhythms.
Emmanuel’s website says that he plays country and bluegrass, pop, jazz, blues, gospel, even classical, and aboriginal styles. “And I’ve dabbled in flamenco. I’ve never been trained in flamenco of course, but I love the music…That’s one reason I’m always so excited to come back to Spain.” He quoted Winton Marsalis: “Winton said that when you saw Louis Armstrong live, your immediate feeling was everything was ok in the world, because he was playing. That’s my goal. That, and the element of surprise… ‘Surprise me’ is my mantra in all of my shows. Give people something they’ve never seen before. When I walk onstage, it’s like ok, the train is leaving… so I had better make this a good ride!”
Speaking of musical journeys, the ever-evolving Italian trumpet and flugelhorn player Paolo Fresu will also be performing at the Jazz Fest, with three separate projects. He has played on countless records in many international projects, including the Angel Quartet in Vietnam, with American music icons such as James Taylor.
We were able to grab a few minutes of conversation via Skype before he headed to the airport to start his tour. Like Emmanuel, he considers labelling himself “just jazz” to be limiting. “I ask myself sometimes what does it mean to be a so-called musician in the modern world? It means to preserve the history and memory of jazz, but to also put my reality into that context of tradition, and to always look towards the future. Today it’s hard to find just a jazz musician. What matters is that we make good music, not jazz music… and to communicate something of value to the public.”
He’s been making good music for the past seven years with Cuban composer Omar Sosa, who will be appearing with Fresu at Luz de Gas. Their new album Alma incorporates Cuban, Africana, Sardinia, Jazz, even Baroque influences–or as Fresu put it in our mixed Spanish, Italian, and English phone interview “un poco de todo, a little of a lot of things. Our priority is to make good music that communicates something of value to the public.”
But what are these highly creative, skilled musicians looking forward to most about participating in the Jazz Festival? Emmanuel says the best moments come when he’s just meeting people backstage before and after the shows. And Fresu? He is looking forward to “trying some of the wines in Barcelona. I have a list of places I want to go! Between the music and the wine, the local flavours, what more could I ask for?”
The full line-up and ticket information are on the website:
Paolo Fresu and Quartetto Alaborada
November 11th, 8pm
Laudatory Sale 2
Paolo Fresu Monvinic Experience
November 12th, 8:30pm
November 15th, 9pm
Teatre Arteria Paral-el