Just like when you crack open a suitcase containing an old instrument, or catch a whiff of yellowing sheet music sat on a shelf, something magical is in the air these days. News, posters, presentations, auditoriums and an endless list of other elements indicate that the jazz season has arrived in earnest in the Basque Country.
Getxo is the first city to sample the essence of jazz, from July 3 to 7, with a program that brings first-rate solo performers and bands such as Al di Meola, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ignacio Berroa, Stacey Kent, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra. All of them are sure to draw the crowds in a year that has been financially devastating for the culture sector in Spain.
Also celebrating its 37th year of existence is the Vitoria jazz festival, which features Branford Marsalis, Melody Gardot, Chick Corea, Antonio Sánchez, Ibrahim Maalouf and a long list of performers of various styles, including the arch-famous Paco de Lucía, who will introduce a flamenco element into the program.
Two particular recommendations are Melody Gardot and Antonio Sánchez, names that may not sound as familiar as some of the others. Melody is the queen of the stage, lording it over the musicians up there with her, and, just seconds after she opens her mouth to sing, over the entire audience. The fact that she uses a walking stick is no sign of weakness or hesitation: Melody hypnotizes everyone with her beautiful, inimitable voice.
For his part, Antonio Sánchez represents the power of rhythm, the vigor of the drums, speed and imagination at the service of beats. They say he is the best drummer of his generation, and this reporter would vouch for him being the type of musician that makes an entire festival worthwhile. The Vitoria jazz festival, held from July 16 to 20, once again proves that it takes its job seriously.
But there is still one more festival to talk about — the daddy of them all at age 48. The San Sebastián jazz festival, Jazzaldia, is one of Europe’s most potent music gatherings of its kind thanks to its long history, experience and track record featuring many more victories than defeats. John Zorn, Diana Krall, Lee Konitz Quartet, Hiromi: The Trio Project, Elvis Costello and Jamie Cullum are just a few of the artists who will be at the seaside resort between July 24 and 28. The program is overwhelming thanks to the sheer number of performances and venues — making recommendations is risky, due to the fact you might leave someone out.
Getxo Jazz Festival: from July 3 to 7. Vitoria Jazz Festival: from July 16 to 20. San Sebastián Jazz Festival: from July 24 to 28. www.jazzeuskadi.com