Canary Island Jazz Festival 2014

Spain and Portugal form the Iberian Peninsula together. They share a border hardly distinguishable from one another…don’t say that I said that ☺ I’ll never be able to return. Just off of their western coast is a group of tiny islands called the Canary Islands. They tend to be wonderful tourist destinations so you know the scenery will be amazing. We did two nights of the festival down here. The first one was in Tenerife and the next was in Las Palmas. It’s always great to locations where the local press requests a press conference. And so we did it the day before in the hotel. The journalists asked some good questions and it gave us the chance to talk about a lot of things, including my marathon career and recent events, such as my ten records in the last 15 years—the newest being the George Duke Tribute album “My Old Friend”. The album was just released in Europe on July 5th and will be in America on August 5th.

The hands of a man or a woman and a string instrument like guitar go a long way back in human history and would surly include Africa and Asia with an increasingly important bond between such hands and instrument producing virtuoso performances. But nowhere in history has there been what we must call a modern day explosion of this guitar and human hands relationship like there has been in Spanish classical guitar/flamenco. This driving force brought us everybody from Paco DeLucia to John McLaughlin to George Benson. Those influences somehow found their way to Brazil music and changed my life. AND that life-changing explosion came when I left the Jazz trio rhythm section format back in 1968 and worked with only an acoustic guitar player—Julio Martinez.

Lots of wide-eyed interests here.

To the next question I answered a resounding, “No, absolutely, not! I’m ten years too late with this George Duke Tribute.” More wide eyes. We played in their classical venue, which looks very similar to the iconic Sydney Shell Opera House in Australia. We had a wonderful and enthusiastic welcome with bright faces and people who I haven’t seen in 12 years. I know that our new program, just as we had planned it, has lots of familiar ring to it. But we’ve really opened the door to some new ideas and approaches that certainly must be fresh for them as listeners because it is for us. And so by the time we had delivered almost an hour and a half of mixed media music and surely must be finished, we returned with Chick (Armando) Corea’s “Spain” and then “Roof Garden/Reach For It” Medley from the record. Oh yes, they were on their feet and doin’ the scootcha bootie. We left feeling happy and fulfilled, and looking forward to a short flight to Las Palmas for the second night of the festival.

And what a great night it was. I’m going to ditto that above description for Las Palmas. It almost works. This hall was another classical music venue, and the first row the audience was touchable from stage. What an amazing difference in communication, energy, and flow this inevitably makes. Yesterday we all looked at each other and remarked about how the new transitions really do seem to be working and providing a seamless continuousness to evening’s music. Especially Larry and Joe Turano and Mark Simmons have become joined at the hip, and we really felt it here in Las Palmas….

“I Will Be Here For You” (Nita-koo, etc) has never ever found such complete and full expression as we’ve come to these days simply because of a captivating guitar-bass rhythm vamp that Joe Turano came up with. You really could listen to it all day long played over and over. That’s where I invite them to sing in Swahili.

And ditto again is the wonderful free form stroll through a 2am moonlit park, quietly playing your horn. Then with a quick trilly flash, you drop into the pulsating introduction for “Teach Me Tonight”. A song has been reborn.

Spain will probably remain a bit formal and shy and hesitant (except for flamenco, bullfighting, and the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria ☺). And so we had to coax them out of their seats for a little hipbone action in “Roof Garden/Reach For It”. They looked around at each other and saw that it was ok to “express yourself” with a little funky dancin’ right there at your seat and a good time was had by everybody.

Our local promoter smiled a lot and the next morning talked about the Canary Islands as a dream location for International Jazz Day. “We got 23 years now a Jazz festival.” That certainly makes them an important outpost for the continuing saga of “sacred” music, including jazz.

Again, thank you, Grand Canaries, Amparo, Miguel, and Miguel’s wife and son! It was an amazing two days here in the Canaries!


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