missing barcelona

I've been back from Barcelona for more than a week, but it seems like yesterday.

If Barcelona is one of the world's most alluring cities--and it is--its Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival must be counted as one of the world's most distinctive and complete jazz events.

The audacious architectural achievements of Gaudí, the searching experimentalism of early works at the Picasso Museum, and the unexpected culinary inventions (what, for instance, Catalan chef Isma Prados can do with tomatoes, strawberries, and sardines) all figure into a novel context for great and adventurous music, and for concert-going in general. The "tenderness sutras," as he calls them, offered by saxophonist Charles Lloyd and his terrific quartet seemed especially radiant there, and both the intimacy and the ostentation of Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés's music were perfectly matched by his setting, the Palau de Música. Not to mention the graciousness of artistic director Joan Anton Cararach, a former music critic himself, his exceedingly lovely wife, Doan Manfugas, whose deeply felt ideas about music owe to her early training in Havana's finest conservatories, and the suave General Director Tito Ramoneda, whose dream of a cultural event linking his city with both New York and Rio de Janeiro seems just crazy enough to work.

In Barcelona, you can sense a true intellectual bent and a finely honed political awareness: When Duke Ellington performed his Second Sacred Concert there in 1969, at the height of Franco's regime, a Catalan choir sang the word "freedom" and meant it, felt it, the way Ellington intended.

So that was the perfect backdrop too, for me to speak for an hour in a lecture titled: "Saving the Second Line: The Fight for New Orleans Jazz Culture Since the Flood" at the invitation of by the U.S. Embassy in Spain, in connection with the festival. The audience felt that too, shared my passion. They just got it, and their savvy questions proved it.

So I was able to bring New Orleans along with me--not to mention Erica and little Sam.

December 3, 2010 12:43 PM |


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