On Saturday, November 10, 2012, Le Poisson Rouge played host to the 9th Annual Encuentro NYC Colombian Music Festival. The festival, produced by Pablo and Anna Mayor, was brilliantly conceived, and efficiently executed. The musical acts covered an astonishing spectrum of different styles and combinations of genres. It was announced that a percentage of CD sales donated to hurricane relief effort in New York.
In American music history studies, much has been said about the influence Latin music had on jazz. It works both ways. One of the very noticeable things was how the music the groups offered shows clearly how deeply American jazz influenced and changed the music of Latin America.
The opening group was Alejandro Florez-Tibagui; an ensemble that offered Latin jazz / Jobim-ish music. They created a very romantic vibe of Paris cafes, South American nights.
The 2nd band, Grupo Rebolu, played traditional music from Caribbean Colombian coast. From the start, they got the crowd moving. Their music was very vivacious, passionate, erotic and infectiously energetic. A noticeable jazz influence poked its head up from the music: but this music is South American through and through.
Sebastian Cruz-Cheap Landscape Trio followed. They could best be described as a Latino jam band – as if the Dead or Phish were born south of the border. Their improvisational songs were jazzy, ethereal, and occasionally Santana-ish.
Cacophonous chords, and resolved with a clarinet singing a jazzy statement with sparse drums announced Bella Vista Project. They were accompanied by a brilliant performance by Pajarillo Pinta’s Dance Company.
The 5th performer was Niko Andreas Guarin. Classical guitar. First piece solo. Ensemble joined him. Their music is classical/Latin/jazz, with a very passionate Spanish feel. Guarin’s guitar style was very modern; this was not an adherence to the Segovia tradition. He brilliantly asserted the delicate and sublime sounds of the classical guitar in a way that drew attention from an audience that was tuned in to a more aggressive music.
Martin Vejarano-Chia’s Dance Party followed. Their group consisted of mainly horns They had an almost a o-Dixieland/klezmer sound. Their music was very complex and busy; yet infused with a sense of humor and fun.
The 7th band, the Alejandro Zuleta Vallenato Collective had a very strong Caribbean flavor. Their music was very pleasurable and invoked that unique “island” feeling.
Pablo Mayor’s Folklore Urbano Orchestra offered traditional “folkloric” music. They paid tribute to some of the legends of Colombian music. Their fast, upbeat music was a stimulating pleasure. Daniel Fetecua/Pajarallo Pinta’s Dance Company performed with them.
9th band was Gregorio Uribe Big Band. They played a more traditional sounding style. With a remarkable compliance of trumpets, trombones and saxes soaring over an amazing percussion section and the leader Gregorio Uribe dancing to the beat while playing the accordion. People danced a lot. They really know how to work a crowd. Their music was invigorating and joyful.
The closing / headliner group was the M.A.K.U Sound System. I say this with some hesitation, for no reason other than the fact that all the groups were absolutely brilliant, and offered wonderful music. But they were clearly the best group on the bill ? and that is saying a lot. Their performance had an intensity reminiscent of early Santana; yet with a unique character that could never have come from any other culture. Of all the bands that day, they were the most eloquent in their expression of human tribulation, and the triumph of joy and dignity over suffering. This was not party music; power was not entertaining, it was hypnotic; orgasmic. Their music is as real as revolution, and life itself.
One of the most interesting aspects of this festival is the fact that so many dissimilar styles were brought together under one venue in one festival. It is repugnant that such a blend -a unity of opposites-is rare in the world. Hopefully, the example of this will do its part to initiate a precedent of this being the norm rather than the exception. The world is in desperate need of this.