I didn’t see as much of Canarian International Jazz Festival (in its XXVth edition this year!) as I’d like to — but who did? At least, Timur and I went to Plaza de Santa Ana two nights in a row, 22 and 23 July, and enjoyed some good, at times great, music.
Jon Cleary trio (Friday) was the only “international” act during these two days. And man, they were good. Jon Cleary plays some mean honky-tonky style piano and sings blues so listening to him one may be excused to think that the guy himself, just like his bandmates, hails from New Orleans, Louisiana and not from Cranbrook, Kent. They played an encore; “Do you want some more?”, asked the bass player. “Yes? Buy the CD!” Fair enough; the show was free and they were running late.
Personally, I don’t care much about Michael Jackson but Madrid-based Patax made quite a good job of covering his hits, to the degree of enjoyability. They opened their set with Billie Jean which included a great deal of flamenco singing, clapping and dancing; after ten minutes or so, Timur asked me, “Is it still the first song?” — yes it was. A note to myself: next time, try to get closer to the band if just to see the dancing. Patax, perhaps uniquely, played on four (of five) islands participating in the festival this year: Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife. Respect.
Luis Merino’s band (Friday), Jazz Coming and José Carlos Díaz Group (both Saturday) are three electric guitar-driven quartets based in Gran Canaria (I hope they forgive me for unceremoniously lumping them together) playing “contemporary” jazz which by now became mainstream. The problem with mainstream, of course, is that it is a very crowded
stream field place to be. To my ear, neither of these bands sounded particularly Spanish, let alone Canarian. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Still, I need some musical clues to differentiate them from the said mainstream, or, for that matter, one from another. In the case of Luis Merino Quartet, it was Xerach Peñate who made the band to stand out (back in 2013, Yuri and I saw her playing with Gran Canaria Big Band); a jazz drummer to watch. Ironically, what I remembered the best of Jazz Coming set were two songs with a guest singer whose name I did not remember. José Carlos Díaz Group presented most lively, hummable, danceable material.
Touché! probably was the least mainstream of the bands presented during those two days. An acoustic guitar duo from Tenerife plays compositions which are difficult to categorise; unfortunately, also difficult to hear when most of the audience is chatting all the time. A more chamber setting would suit Touché! (and the listener) better.
The whole Saturday set was, as they say, más canario que el gofio. We didn’t stay to see another Gran Canarias outfit, Perinké Big Band, because it was about to start after 1 am but I am determined to catch them when they play next time. Hopefully, soon.
Luis Merino Quartet
Jon Cleary trio
José Carlos Díaz Group