Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Magistrum at Summerjazz in Denia

Introducing The Impossible Dream as his encore number, the presenter noted how appropriate the song is to Spain´s desperate situation. We seemed a long way from the political and economic crisis, cosseted in the Torrecremada gardens  on a balmy August evening, listening to the well oiled Magistrum quartet going through their numbers in the second event of the Summerjazz    series.

The concert started well with a jazz trio interpretation of La Tarara. This is one of the Spanish folk songs collected and arranged by Federico García Lorca and it followed a style of Flamenco jazz  that´s now pretty familiar thanks to artists like Chano Dominguez   Guillermo McGill  and  Miguel Angel Chastang  in Spain and Michel Camilo   further afield, to mention but a few. The trio played the opening of Bach´s first Prelude in C and I thought we were settled into an evening of professional and predictable fare, but tenor J.L.Luri soon made it clear we were going to hear a varied and, at times, completely original set.
J.L.Luri is an operatic tenor and the programme was built around his beautiful voice. It wasn´t a surprise to read later on the  Magistrum   web site that he has sung in more than 100 opera productions and has played leading roles in grand opera repertoire such as La Traviata.  The Bach prelude turned into Ave Maria and was followed by standards like As  time goes by, Over the rainbow, Moon River and Maria and opera favourites such as Nessum Dorma, which he sang as if it was all so easy.
There were lovely performances of Napolitan songs including O sole mio and then, to me, the most interesting part, Spanish songs. In almost all the songs the trio broke into swing interludes between the verses, and sometimes the whole accompaniment was in jazz style.
The concert began with La Tarara as an instrumental, as I have said, but as it went on we heard great tunes like Granada and a couple of arias from the Spanish operetta genre called zarzuela. Granada is intriguing to start with when we remember that Augustin Lara had never traveled from his native Mexico before writing this song, which seems to perfectly embody the Spanish style. It´s a bit like Puccini´s achievement in evoking Madame Butterfly´s Japan without having left Europe. Musically it is interesting because the harmonies and chord changes are very busy and give rise to some nifty playing and effective dynamic control.
The zarzuela items really worked well in that there was no lowering of the standard of execution in the tenor part, yet the trio breathed new life into the accompaniments, which, let´s be honest, are at times limited, especially in a trio reduction.
I really enjoyed the very detailed and discreet drumming by Fernando Cherro  and the nice loose, free bass playing on bass guitar an electric upright bass by J.A. Bornay. The jazz soloing fell almost entirely to pianist V.J. Ruíz and he maintained an exceptionally high level of interest throughout a long programme. If I had to choose  the most effective solos I would go for O sole mio and What a wonderful world, which were both totally assured and yet fresh.

Is it an Impossible Dream to think that Spain can dig its way out of this crisis? If there is a future for the country it will come from  the creativity and originality of  its citizens and artistes, the kind of creativity we were privileged to share thanks to Magistrum in the gardens in Denia.

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