Puerto Rico Festival Report: 9th Carolina International Jazz Festival

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Music diversity was the theme in the Carolina International Jazz Festival on its 9th edition, which took place on Friday, August 9 and Saturday, August 10, 2013. Each act presented a different jazz style.

Festival Report/Photographs by Wilbert Sostre

The first act on Friday night, already a tradition for this festival, were the students of the Carolina Art School. This group of future jazz virtuosos focused their presentation on jazz arrangements of Puerto Rico folk music (bomba, plena).
The second act was also a young but already established jazz musician from Puerto Rico, bassist Alex Apolo Ayala. Ayala, moving to New York right after this event to continue his career, played mostly original compositions from his album Onwards. Accompanied by piano master Luis Marin, and Gamaliel Santiago on drums Apolo amazed the audience with his flawless improvisations and clean technique.

Following Ayala, timbalero Edwin Clemente changed the pace of the night with his intense Latin jazz music. Percussionist José Febres, bassist Ricardo Lugo, drummer Manuel Berríos, trombonist Carlos Oscar Cepero, saxophonist Pedro Méndez and piano master Richard Trinidad, accompanied Clemente (nephew of Puerto Rico baseball legend Roberto Clemente).

Closing the first night, David “Piro” Rodríguez surprised me with his music proposal for the night. A trumpet player with vast experience playing salsa and Latin music, opted for a selection of music mostly in the fusion and smooth jazz tradition with brushes of Latin jazz.

The second night opened again with the students band, that after the nervousness and stage fright of the first night, seem more comfortable and loose playing the same repertoire of the night before.

The international act of the fest, sax legend Justo Almario, followed the students band. Almario brilliantly fused jazz music with the music from his native Colombia. Accompanying Almario, three masters musicians, Cuban drummer Fidel Morales, Cuban bassist Ramón Vázquez and Puerto Rican pianist Luis Marín.

And closing the night and the fest, and also a tradition of the Carolina Jazz Fest, Luis Perico Ortíz Big Band. This year the big band remembered the legacy and music of Chano Pozo and Mongo Santamaría. With special guests Justo Almario, Andrew Lazzaro, and the beautiful voice of the Carolina Art School alumni Daisy Maeso, a singer whose style and stage presence is similar to jazz singer Jane Monheit. Even though there was some vocal mistakes at the end of her presentation, surely due to nervousness, her talent is unquestionable. Two days of feelings dedicated to Mongo and Chano, two giants of Latin jazz.