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Two concerts from the XIX Festival Internacional de Jazz y Blues

By Antonio Lozoya

Cole Porter is one of America’s best-loved songwriters, and among a small handful of greats to write both words and music, yet there is something paradoxical in his body of work. We think of Porter as a craftsman of jaunty melodies and witty lyrics – both true impressions – but there is also a melancholy that underlies even his liveliest songs. Porter was the patron saint of unrequited love. Consider, for instance, the ever-popular standard “I Get a Kick Out of You,” which the lovely and talented Dannah Garay will sing in the first of our two gala musical events, on July 15 at the Teatro Angela Peralta, a concert devoted entirely to Porter. Amid all the bubbly music and references to champagne and air travel is the wistful line, “It’s clear to me, you obviously don’t adore me.” The same paradox of bittersweetness is a principal feature of the blues, the focus of the second of our two concerts, on July 16, also at the Peralta.

Concert
Tribute to Cole Porter
Mon, Jul 15, 7:30pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
150/100 pesos

Concert
Celebration of the Blues
Tue, Jul 16, 7:30pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
150/100 pesos

“Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll is characterized by specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues chord progression is the most common.”

To present these two back-to-back concerts, as both bassist and musical director, I have put together one of the best ensembles it has been my pleasure to work with: for the Porter tribute, the jazz singer Dannah Garay, the Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernandez and percussionist Victor Monterrubio; and for the blues concert, singers Craig Caffall, Robert Kaplan, and J. K. O’Donnell, pianist Uriel Orozco, guitarist Ken Basman and percussionist Rick Shlosser.

Dannah Garay is a young Mexican singer strongly influenced by American jazz, with a performing style reminiscent of Dianne Reeves, one of her music idols. Garay won a scholarship from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and has performed throughout Latin America and in the US, where she was a headliner at the inaugural concert of the Global Jazz Institute at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Her latest album, a tribute to Nat “King” Cole, topped the bestseller list at music stores in Mexico. Among the other Cole Porter standards that she will perform on July 15 are the haunting “Get Out of Town,” and the romantic “So in Love,” both of which are favorites of jazz musicians worldwide.

Craig Caffall, the special guest singer and guitarist who will perform at the blues concert on July 16, was born in San Francisco, and nowadays divides his time between San Miguel and the United States. Cafall has been playing professionally since the age of 17, and his impressive resumé includes stints as lead guitarist for blues singer Maria Muldaur, concerts in which he shared the stage with luminaries such as Bonnie Raitt, Holly Near, and Dr. John, and a recording contract with GRA Records, Muldaur’s label.

The blues concert will encompass the entire historical sweep of this essential musical genre, from its African roots to the present day. One of our set pieces will be a blues rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which many people mistakenly believe is an Anglican Church hymn, when it is in fact a melody almost certainly composed by an anonymous African slave. Though the tune is attributed to English clergyman John Newton, he wrote only the words, and before his spiritual conversion, he served aboard a slave ship.

As many residents of San Miguel are by now aware, this past June 9, our friend Eduardo “Eddy” Kaczmarek was hit by a train. Hospital bills are mounting, and we encourage everyone in our community to purchase tickets to the fundraising raffle set up by Eddy’s mother, Antonieta Espinosa (please visit antonietasangels.com for more information). A portion of the proceeds of both of our concerts will be donated to help pay the expenses incurred by his family.

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