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Festival Report

Puerto Rico – Ponce Jazz Festival 2013



“There are several reasons why I like the Ponce Jazz Festival. One reason is that it gives me the opportunity to get out of the Puerto Rico Metropolitan area and travel south to one of the most beautiful and historical cities in the island, Ponce.”

Report/Photographs by Wilbert Sostre

I also know personally the fest producer, radio personality and friend Wanda Borrero, so this gives me more mobility and direct access to the fest artists. Another good thing about this fest is that because this is just its second edition and because it is Wanda’s goal to support the local talent, all the musicians are local jazz heroes and most of them are from the south of Puerto Rico. Of course, Wanda’s vision is to invite international jazz artists in future editions of the fest.

This second edition was a perfect mix of young new talent and virtuosic jazz veterans. Friday, April 27th was a perfect example of this young and veterans balanced approach. The students and future jazz masters of the Juan Morel Campos Music School opened the night and prepared the stage to another group of young talented musicians, the all women quintet “Diversis.” This was Diversis’ first presentation in an event of this magnitude, so, of course they were a little nervous for the first two pieces, but once they warmed up these ladies demonstrated they really can play.

The third act of the night, flutist Joche Caraballo delighted the audience with jazz arrangements of some Puerto Rican classic like Pedro Flores “Obsesión”. Caraballo invited singer Jenny Gómez for the interpretation of the Jobim classic “One Note Samba” and  the standard “Autumn Leaves”.  One of the fest honorees, bassist/composer Irving Cancel and his Latin Jazz Ensemble closed the night presenting a fusion of jazz with Puerto Rican Bomba and African rhythms in pieces like “Sarabanda” and “Tym Mary”.

Saturday night was a special one for it was the official dedication to bassist Irving Cancel and saxophonist Frankie Pérez. The night started with Luis González Latin jazz tribute to the music of percussionist legend Ray Barreto.  The band included three special guests: drummer Jimmy Rivera, pianist Pedro Bermudez and flutist Kalani Trinidad.

Trumpetist Joseito Ruiz continued the Latin jazz mood and at one point invited his brother and father, also master trumpeters, to join him on stage.

The night closed with the original concept of Puerto Sax, a quartet of just sax players: Ricardo Pons on alto and soprano, Frankie Pérez on tenor, Angel Torres on alto and Roberto Calderón on the baritone. There is no rhythm section on this quartet so these sax virtuosos had to take turns in doing harmonies, rhythms and melodies on “Contigo en la.distancia” (César Portillo de la Luz ) and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop”.

Besides the first act, there was a tribute to jazz legend Art Blakey by a group of excellent young musicians who called themselves “Black Jazz.” The last day of the fest was dedicated to Big Bands. “Master Jazz Big Band” followed playing classics like Juan Tizol’s “Caravan”. The big band took a break to allow “The Ponce Municipal Band” to continue in a tradition of broadcasting their live performance every Sunday night at 8pm through Católica Radio. After the Municipal Band, the Masters Big Band came back to the stage to close a successful second edition of the Ponce Jazz Festival, this year joining in the celebration of the International Jazz Day.

Member of the Jazz Journalist Association since 2010. Member of the Ponce International Jazz Festival Commitee. Studied music and guitar, 1985-86. Music studies at the University of Puerto Rico and the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico, 1986-1990.

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