The Jazz.com Blog
June 05, 2008 · 2 comments
Earlier this week, jazz.com presented Tomas Peña’s account of day one at the Heineken JazzFest in Puerto Rico. Today we follow up with his review of JazzFest performances by the Pat Metheny Trio and the Fort Apache Band.
Saturday’s show was an historic event. It marked the first time Pat Metheny had performed in (or visited) Puerto Rico, and also represented a unique opportunity to see the Pat Metheny Trio and the Fort Apache Band on the same bill. As I met and spoke with many musicians and jazz aficionados, I learned that there are droves of Metheny fanatics in Puerto Rico. It seemed like every guitar player on the island felt compelled to show up.
The festivities commenced with Metheny performing on the baritone guitar ("Make Peace"), electric guitar (a lengthy improvisation on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s, "How Insensitive") and the Pikasso 1, a three-necked, 42-string, custom made guitar ("The Sound of Water"). For the remainder of the performance, bass player Christian Mc Bride and drummer Antonio Sanchez joined him onstage.
The Pat Metheny Trio is poetry in motion. From the outset it was obvious that each musician is a master in his own right, but it’s the camaraderie and telepathic virtuosity that comes from being on the road for five years that really grabs your attention.
The repertoire seamlessly weaved Metheny classics with newer material. Metheny played music from the trio’s recent Day Trip, as well as compositions from Still Life (Talking), 80/81, Bright Size Life and Question and Answer. In all, the trio took the audience on a musical journey that defied description or categorization. The music contained elements of jazz, bop, fusion Brazilian and folk music. But at the end of the day it was the high level of musicianship that towered over the material and captivated the audience.
In the end, the Trio received a well deserved standing ovation and demands for an encore, or as we say in Puerto Rico, Otra!, Otra! ("One More, One More!") The Pat Metheny Trio exceeded everyone’s expectations, including the many musicians who marveled at Metheny’s brilliance.
But this festival was about much more than featuring name acts from the mainland. Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band were also on the bill. I offer my congratulations to the organizers of the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival for having the vision to honor Jerry and Andy Gonzalez, two living legends and Puerto Rican icons.
While Jerry’s trumpet and flugelhorn reflect the influence of Miles and Dizzy, he never strays far from his Puerto Rican roots. As he explained to The Detroit News, “I am bilingual, I speak Spanish and English. I can play the blues and I can play the rumba.” Bass player Andy Gonzalez is considered by many to be the premiere Latin (Puerto Rican) bass player on the planet. Suffice it to say the band's influence, individually and collectively, extends far beyond the boundaries of Latin and jazz.
As always, The Fort Apache Band came to play. The sophistication of the band lies in their ability to bring a jazz flexibility to the Latin rhythm section and breathe new life into jazz classics. In keeping with that, Fort Apache breezed through Larry Willis’ "Nightfall," Art Blakey’s "United," Monk’s "Little Rootie Tootie" and a beautiful ballad by Duke Ellington.
Fort Apache’s music is always hip, uncompromising and unpredictable (think Miles and Machito rolled into one). Moreover, the success and historical relevance of the Fort Apache Band can be attributed, in large part, to its longevity and consistent line-up, which has been in place since 1990: Jerry, Andy, pianist Larry Willis, saxophonist Joe Ford, and drummer Steve Berrios. The evening’s festivities closed with an award ceremony and a scorching rendition of Pedro Flores’ "Obsesión."
At the concluding award ceremony, Jerry and Andy received a framed memento, artist Dennis Mario’s logo for this year’s festival. Tres player Nelson Gonzalez commented on Jerry and Andy’s influence on him as well as on many other artists who have gone on to become leaders in their own right: Dave Valentin, Hilton Ruiz and Arturo O’ Farrill, among others.
The Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival is one of the most important festivals of its kind because of its “bi-cultural” approach to music, its ongoing commitment to music education, and the fact that it has and continues to pay homage to the greats: Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Gato Barbieri, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdez, Carlos Patato Valdez, and Chick Corea, to name a few. The festival is an annual event which has been traditionally been held during the last week in May for eighteen years.
For those of you who have not experienced The Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival, I highly recommend it. Hope to see you in 2009!
This blog entry posted by Tomas Peña.