viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011

Mayaguez Jazz Festival: Local Talent Reigns

Mayaguez Jazz Festival: Local Talent Reigns

Report from jazz festival in Puerto Rico

By Wilbert Sostre

The Mayaguez Jazz Festival is one of the most important jazz festivals in Puerto Rico and the only one in the West area since 2004. In contrast to the other major PR Jazz Fest, the Mayaguez Jazz Fest is a platform for Puerto Rican musicians to display their talents.

Friday November 18

The 2011 edition was dedicated to a couple of young jazz musicians—trumpeter Daniel Ramirez and saxophonist Jesus O'Farril. On the first night the opening act was Mike Arroyo, a Puerto Rican guitar player and part of a new modality in PR called Christian Jazz—music with a positive message but without sacrificing the quality of a good jazz group. Accompanying Mike were Manolo Navarro on piano, Carlos Torres on bass, and the legendary drummer Jimmy Rivera. Arroyo’s repertoire included original songs like Initial Flight, a piece with Latin rhythms, and nice versions of classics like “God Bless the Child.” Jimmy Rivera closed Mike's presentation with an impressive drum solo.

After a short ceremony of dedication to Mayaguez natives Daniel Ramirez and Jesus O'Farril, Ramirez took the stage. This young musician captivated the audience with his sheer energy and creative improvisations. There is no doubt Ramirez will be one of the future jazz virtuosos from Puerto Rico. He already has a vast experience playing with some of the best Puerto Rican jazz musicians. Ramirez and his group played some complex and interesting originals with plenty of tempo changes and excellent improvisations.

Saturday, November 19

Jesus O'Farril was the opening act for the second night of the Mayaguez Jazz Festival. Accompanied by a group extraordinaire musicians; tenor sax Norberto Tiko Ortiz, bassist Gabriel Rodriguez, guitarrist Luis Bonilla, drummer Mario Pereira, all students and professors from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, the presentation was an exchange of virtuosic improvisations and pure energy. The repertoire included pieces in the straight-ahead jazz tradition as well as compositions influenced by Bomba rhythms.

Flutist virtuoso Kalani Trinidad was the second act on Saturday night. Trinidad is a musician who possesses a beautiful tone and great fluidity on his improvisations. He has the ability to convey a diversity of emotions on his playing. Trinidad presented his debut album Crossing Bridges. Accompanying Trinidad on this night were his father Richard Trinidad on piano, Hector Matos on drums and Ricky Rodriguez on bass.

Sunday, November 20

The closing acts for the last day of the fest were: Bluzzero, the only group in PR that plays original blues in Spanish; Sound Jazz, a group of musicians from the radio station Vid 90.3, the only jazz station in Puerto Rico and creators of the Mayaguez Jazz Festival; and Jan Carlos Artime, an excellent cuban pianist living in Puerto Rico.

domingo, 20 de noviembre de 2011

Aldemar Valentin Interview

A bassist born in Mayaguez, Aldemar Valentin is one of the many young and talented jazz musicians coming out of Puerto Rico.

What music did you listen when you were young?

The first music I liked was Rock but my father listened to Salsa music. So I was exposed to those two music stylesn that are really the same, Fania was basically a rock group.

When did you start studying music?

My family moved from Mayaguez to Ponce and I started studying at the Escuela Libre de Musica with Irving Cancel. An excellent musician and professor.

When I moved back to Mayaguez I kept on studying music and had the good luck of finding a good professor, Nestor Perez who gave me the chance to play with his group. His repertoire was jazz/fusion, things like Santana, Steely Dan, etc. I also had the opportunity to play with Nelson Perez who was playing more traditional jazz. He played in a project Heineken was doing back then called Heineken Feels the Nights. The concept was a house band with guest musicians on different pub around Puerto Rico. I remember that in Mayaguez I saw musicians like Giovanni Hidalgo and Dave Valentin.

I guess you already played in the Mayaguez Jazz Festival?

Yes, I played there a couple of years ago. That particular year was really good because they did it indoor in the Yaguez Theatre, that I think is a more appropiate venue for a serious genre like jazz music. The sound is better in places like that, plus jazz is music for close, intimate places.

What do you think about the jazz scene today?

There always has been jazz in Puerto Rico. What we are doing now, musicians like Fernando Mattina, Ivan Maraver, Hector Veneros and Furito Rios did it years ago but they did not have facebook, twitter to promote the activities. Mattina played in aplace called Cafe Matiz. Amuni Nacer was also playing back then. Jorge Laboy recorded jazz, Batacumbele also. Frank Ferrer did some amazing things. The problem here in Puerto Rico is that there is not a permanent venue for the exposure of jazz. Samuel Morales is trying that on the pub Abracadabra.

Who were your first influences?

Dave Valentin live at the blue note. Chick Corea y Yellowjackets. From Puerto Rico Angel David Matos, Sammy Morales, John Benitez.

How did you get into Berklee?

I did send a tape and the bass department gave me a partial scholarship, later a full one. I studied Jazz Performance there from 1995 until 2003. Then I studied the New England School of Music until 2006.


First album in 2008 recorded live in Arava in Santurce and the new one is Ficciones, that just came out in 2011

Even though you are young you already worked with some of the best musicians in PR?

Sure, Brenda Hopkins, Jorge Laboy, Angel David Matos. I also recorded with Miguel Zenon an album that never was published. Also recorded with pianist Danilo Perez the piece Panama Suite.