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Festivals Report

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.

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.

Festivals Report

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 24 to July 3, 2022

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TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2022

10 Days of Free Shows — Say What!

My TD Toronto Jazz Festival started mid festival, Tuesday, June 28th, early evening. It was all about Juno winners and nominees. The first act, Sammy Jackson and her quartet performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Sammy Jackson won a Juno for vocal jazz album of the year. Her band, made up of Jackson on Vocals, Thomas Fleming – guitar, Chris Pruden – keys, Mark Godfrey – bass and Ian Wright playing the drums. Jackson sang songs from her award winning 5-track EP With You, featuring original compositions. Sammy Jackson added some songs from her 2016 release, the 5-track EP Take Me Back, to make for an enjoyable hour long performance. Jackson’s songs are about joy, vulnerability, long distance relationships, and love. Jackson blends jazz, R&B, soul and pop with her beautiful voice.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Jackson covers an impressive vocal range, and her phrasing is delightful. Jackson shines on the ballads. I especially enjoyed “Bad Reception” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Sammy Jackson concluded her show with one dedicated to her son, entitled “Chuckie”, a toddler who happened to be in the audience and made a cameo at the front of the stage. This tune was upbeat and had a happy go lucky, dance groove to get everybody moving.

I spoke with Jackson after the show, I asked her if she noticed the Juno enhancing her career? She said, “I think it’s why I’m here. The Juno increased my exposure. So that’s great. Thank you Juno!”

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Kellylee Evans performed the evening of the 28th and I was not going to miss her concert at the TD Main Stage. Kellylee Evans was in great vocal form and in accompaniment with a wonderful band made up of Joel Visentin – keyboards, Mark Godfrey – bass, Rich Grossman – guitar, and Ian Wright on drums.

Evans has suffered some serious physical setbacks in her recovery from a tragic accident in 2013. She has an injury that is effecting her ability to walk and even to stand. She performed the show from a sitting position.

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Evans puts her heart and soul into her singing. She is a Juno winner for vocal jazz album of the year for Nina, released in 2010. One of my favourite vocal jazz albums.

This evening, Evans performed songs from her new 5-song EP Green Light as well as many others. A beautiful, dynamic, high energy performance—even from her seated position.

Alexis Baró Quintet - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Alexis Baró Quintet – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I started off Wednesday, the 29th with the amazing trumpet playing of Alexis Baró. The Alexis Baró Quintet was performing at the TD Stage at Festival Village in Yorkville.

I really enjoy Baró’s trumpet playing. I think he is one of the most expressive players in the Afro Cuban style. Baró performed songs from his new album Ma Raiz.

Larnell Lewis Band - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I only stuck around for a few of the songs as Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis were performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove, a few streets south. It is most unfortunate to have these scheduling conflicts. However, It is amazing to have so much talent at one festival.

Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis performed on the TD Main Stage Wednesday the 29th – a dynamite performance. The band, made up of Larnell Lewis – drums, Joy Lapps – steelpan, Jeremy Ledbetter – piano, Elmer Ferrer – guitar, Rob Christian – woodwinds, Andrew McAnsh – trumpet and Marc Manhertz – bass.

Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

“Rejoice” was the title of one of the songs performed and to hear this band is to rejoice. When I listen to Larnell Lewis play I feel the pulse through my soul. I think this is the most heartful drummer I have ever heard. His music is uplifting, powerful, dynamic, his beats, fills and rhythms, just outstanding. He shares his heart with the audience, nothing is left on the stage. 

Now to get ready for a return to Koerner Hall, after 2 years of isolation, for one of the few ticketed events, the Gregory Porter band. Excited? Yes, indeed!

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