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José Heredia - Mas i Mas
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Sun Ra Mas i Mas
Mas i Mas is a massive series of 160 concerts that runs from July to September, incorporating local and international artists in large and small venues throughout the city. The group Mas i Mas has been making a significant impact on the Barcelona live music scene for almost three decades. Although its original focus was on promoting funk, blues and soul music, its most recent development has been the creation of the Fundació Mas i Mas, which dedicates itself to sponsoring classical music concerts in iconic venues around town. The festival itself was inaugurated in 2003 with a mostly jazz line-up; since then, more venues and genres have been added yearly.
Two notable acts this year that represent the diversity of musical traditions at Mas i Mas are the Sun Ra Arkestra and José ‘Niño Josele’ Heredia. The first is a complex crew of American musicians whose founder, Le Sony’r Ra or Sun Ra, started the band over 50 years ago in the jazz clubs of Chicago, and who claimed to have come from the planet Saturn. The second is a flamenco player from the heart of Andalusia, who at times departs from his roots to rock out with the likes of Lenny Kravitz. Both are innovators, but the similarities stop there.
Marshall Belford Allen, the current leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra, met its founder in the mid-Fifties. Sun Ra was one of jazz’s most controversial performers, as much because of his unconventional mix of African, jazz, and experimental influences as for his futuristic cosmic philosophy and his claims to be of an ‘Angel Race’ from outer space. Sun Ra’s band members, which over the years have numbered at least into the dozens, were not just players; they were, as Allen puts it, “students of Sun Ra’s precepts”. Many of them, including Allen, lived and still live together in the Philadelphia house that was Sun Ra’s residence.
“Sun Ra had a unique philosophy on life and music,” Allen says. “He created space age music for the 21st century, when were still in the 20th century!” Allen insists that Sun Ra foresaw the coming of electronic instruments and music’s eventual dependence on technology as far back as the Fifties.
Marshall Allen became the Arkestra’s band leader in 1995, two years after Sun Ra died. He says that although he incorporates his own compositions into the live show, he has stayed true to the musical philosophy of the group’s founder, and is excited to return to Barcelona for the first time in many years. “Each country and its peoples have a unique vibration, which affects the performance. Every show is different, so... this Barcelona show will be one of a kind.”
José ‘Niño Josele’ Heredia has musical roots in a very different domain, yet he too enjoys challenging expectations. He first made a name for himself playing with the demigods of the flamenco world—Paco de Lucía, Enrique Morente and Diego ‘El Cigala’, among others—but Heredia says he doesn’t fit into the cliché of the flamenco player who only listens to flamenco. “I’ve played music professionally since I was eight years old. I’ve always been interested in every style of music, as long as it’s good music!” he says. “You always feel a sense of respect and also insecurity when you enter into a genre that isn’t your genre. But when other great musicians within that style—jazz, for example—feel an affinity for what you’re doing, you think OK, maybe I’m doing alright!” He has twice been nominated for a Latin Grammy, which, he says, “helped to open my world up to playing with pop artists, like Alicia Keys and Elton John. I was equally impressed by them as by the flamenco greats I’ve worked with. Collaborations outside flamenco help me to grow.”
He and Catalan jazz pianist Joan Díaz will be presenting a special concert, the fruit of their recent collaboration, which is a mix of jazz and flamenco that Heredia says isn’t ‘traditional’ at all. The two were brought together after Heredia and Díaz each released an album as a tribute to famed pianist Bill Evans, entitled Paz and We Sing Bill Evans, respectively.
José Heredia and Joan Díaz will present their new project at the Palau de la Música (Sala d’Assaig de l’Orfeó Català) on August 1st. The Sun Ra Arkestra is playing at Apolo on August 21st. For the full programme, click here.