The International Jazz and Blues Festival Turns 20!
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
During the last eight years, the International Jazz and Blues Festival has changed, attracting not just the most diversified audiences—nationals and foreigners—but also the most virtuoso musicians and singers of jazz and blues. The festival takes place in San Miguel, November 12-16.
For 2014, the festival will feature a music workshop where the audience will have the opportunity to experience the creation of sounds with musical instruments, voices, and hands that will then be put together to create a musical masterpiece. It will also feature a film series that will show Cadillac Records and other films, and there will be an art exhibit featuring oleo paintings by two young San Miguel artists on the rise. The festival aims to leave people with a “good taste in the ear.”
Antonio Lozoya and Tere Urtusástegui have participated as musicians since the first years of the festival, which emerged in San Miguel thanks to the proliferation of jazz musicians. The event has always taken place in November; in the past it used to start on Thanksgiving day. Although the festival turns 20 this year and has reasons to celebrate, it has also had its highs and lows. Eight years ago, when it was given to the current directors, it was in bankruptcy and there were many people that did not believe the festival could succeed again. However, the new organizers worked extremely hard to diversify the event and added Mexican singers and musicians. The festival is now ranked as one of the most important in Mexico.
Urtusástegui comments that when they took over the festival, the first changes that they made were moving the dates, and including Mexican musicians, who had not been well received in the beginning because the audience had the idea that the festival was “from Americans, to Americans.” But the music is universal, and it can be well played and sung anywhere in the world, comments Lozoya, showcasing the talents of Mexicans.
Some of the emblematic Mexican artists that have participated in the event are Betsy Pecanins and Héctor Infanzón (pianist, author, and musical arranger) who performed in 2011. Infanzón performed in the Jardín Principal with a ballerina whose foot stomping was used as percussion to accompany the piano, and she adorned the sound with the movements of her hands. Suddenly, Infanzón stopped playing jazz, and the ballerina started dancing Mexican folkloric music. “People were asking the nationality of the pianist; they could not believe he was Mexican. But we have talented musicians and in Mexico we play well,” said Lozoya.
For the first time in Mexico
King Solomon will open the festival at Teatro Ángela Peralta on November 12 at 7:30pm. This is the artist’s first time coming to Mexico and his participation in the festival is very significant; Lozoya is betting that Solomon will be nominated for a Grammy award before long. “He brings a fresh blues project; he plays guitar and sings,” he remarked. King Solomon Hicks is a 19-year-old American who started playing guitar at six. Salomon has captivated audiences since he was young, and he recorded an album at the age of 14 with the Cotton Club All Stars Band (celebrities from the Cotton Club in New York). In the United States he has performed 0n radio and television shows and on the stage, including at the United Nations, the US Open, the Gracie Mansion—attended by the New York mayor and other federal politicians—and has performed for jazz pianist Dr. Billy Taylor.
The tickets for this concert are already available at the theater box office for 100 to 300 pesos.
The next day, Brice Winston, saxophonist, composer, and Grammy winner, will perform at 8pm. His residency in New Orleans gave him the opportunity to record albums with great jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Robert Glasper, Aaron Parks, and others. He is co-owner of a jazz school in the Jazz Institute of Tucson, Arizona. The artist regularly participates in jazz programs. Tickets are available at the box office.
Husband and wife Tuck and Patti have been in the world of music for more than three decades. “The audience from the United States identifies with them very well,” says Lozoya. Their schedule is very busy and it is an honor for the organizers to have them here to celebrate 20 years of jazz and blues. “They are the perfect couple,” said Urtusástegui, who also commented that Patti sings and Tuck plays the guitar. She said that the audience can close their eyes while they are listening to Tuck´s guitar and forget that it is a guitar making the sound. “He is a brilliant musician and he can even make the sounds of a piano, just with a guitar,” she said. The music of this prestigious duet ranges from jazz or pop to blues, gospel, rock or rhythm, and also African and Brazilian sounds.
Their webpage states that this couple has traveled the world with their music, captivating the most diverse audiences, even jazz fans who love and respect them. The artists say, “ It cannot be made if it does not come from the heart; and if it comes from the heart it requires exigency.” They will perform on November 15 at 8pm.
The festival will close with a special presentation of San Miguel Jazz Cats (and a special guest) who will play and sing the best themes from their six years of tributes to The Beatles, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Motown, The Blues Masters, and others.
On November 12, 14, and 15 at noon, the festival will feature films at the Teatro Santa Ana—movies related to the history of jazz and blues that will help those who are not familiar understand this music genre. The first movie will be Cadillac Records. The film is based on a true story and tells how the recording company emerged. Owner Leonard Chess used to travel the country looking for talented musicians and singers, and when he would find one, they signed a contract in the back seat of his Cadillac. He discovered Etta James, who is portrayed in the film by Beyonce Knowles.
Daily scenes and melancholic art
In addition to posters from the last six years of the festival, the event will feature an art exhibit in the lobby of the theater, showing the oleos of two San Miguel artists on the rise: Antonio Chaurand and Raul Campos. The opening will be on November 12 at 6:30pm.
Antonio Chaurand is 27 years old and has painted since he was three years old. After a trip to Germany, he realized that he wanted to be an artist, that painting was his passion. His works are based on daily scenes not always noticed by the average person, such as a woman looking for something in her purse. Chaurand qualifies his art as unexpected, vibrant, and expressive.
Raúl Campos has been painting disfigured bodies based on his fleeting moods, starting six years ago. The 21-year-old artist qualifies his paintings as melancholic, abstract, and dark.
Find the whole program of the festival on Festivals and Events in Qué Pasa.