A fantastic opener to an evening of Latin-American themed music in the Jazz Tent, The Edmar Castaneda Trio hit the ground running.
Edmar Castaneda, playing an instrument more commonly associated to classical music, gave a performance that was simply in a league of its own. The harp is obviously not the most conventional instrument in jazz but, then, convention has never had much authority over the genre. The brilliant self-taught jazz harpist from Colombia can induce hip swinging rhythm in one moment, then switch seamlessly to plaintive laments with a flash of his masterful fingers. He was joined on stage by Shlomi Cohen on the crying soprano sax and the most cheerful stature of Rodrigo Villalon on drums. It took just a few bars to be convinced that, in the right hands, the harp fully deserved its place at the jazz table. Jazz Club Jury was fortunate enough to have a ‘seat’ in the front row, to more intensely share in the joy and passion the Trio so generously expressed to their audience, to watch as Villalon laughed as he lay down a beat that invited Castaneda and Cohen to further weave their intricate tapestry of sound.
After a brief introduction to his beliefs and the role the harp plays in expressing those beliefs, Edmar Castaneda launched into an extended version of his solo composition ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. To be witness to a master musician, a true craftsman, bare his heart and soul to complete strangers so that they may briefly feel some of what he feels, was enough to bring even this reviewer to his knees. The background noise from the boorish bar side, who had come just for the party finale of the Afro-Cuban All Stars was a constant presence and challenge, but Castaneda visibly took strength from adversity and never allowed his serenity to waver. It is a memory I will cherish, a sublime collection of sliding up and down between notes, cascading into delicate pauses, then striking, plucking and strumming frenetically, to produce ever more elegant structures of sound, a composition worthy of its creator.
As piece after piece escalated the passions of everyone listening, on came Andrea Tierra, Castaneda’s vocalist collaborator, wife, and mother to his two children. After blessing the crowd, humbled at being able to sing in Finland and pointing out Cohen to be the only man able to make a saxophone weep, she gave us something that was extraordinary. Tierra, who has a superbly husky alto voice, set the trio off into a frenzy of life. Renditions, dedicated to her homeland, people and love, were sung in polyrhythmic tones, full of expression and power. The incomparable trio that became a quartet was now in full force.
It felt that the night was only just beginning but, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and the New York based outfit left us wanting more. Unique in texture, with passionate performances throughout, resistance is futile to the world’s leading harpist in the jazz idiom. Absolutely not to be missed if you ever get a chance to see them live.
Here’s a preview showcasing ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ played at the Jazz Standard in New York –
Full Line Up
- Edmar Castaneda – Harp
- Andrea Tierra – Vocals
- Rodrigo Villalon – Drums
- Shlomi Cohen – Saxophone
His most recent album, ‘Double Portion’ is available on iTunes