Those who know
EL PAÍS - Cultura - 28-02-2006





Last week belonged to the savants of jazz. First, José Duarte, a pioneer of jazz criticism in Europe, who received a glowing tribute in Lisbon’s San Luis theater to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his radio show Cinco minutos de jazz; while Juan Claudio Cifuentes celebrated 35 years of his Jazz porque sí radio show, which now goes out on Radio Nacional.

The Melilla Jazz Sessions, (also celebrating an anniversary, in this case their tenth), paid tribute to Cifu’s eloquence and jazz wisdom in an event that was something of a novelty, bringing together as it did audience and public authorities. Representing the latter was the president of the autonomous city of Melilla, Juan José Imbroda, who presented the trophy. The award ceremony was an emotional affair, that for once left the popular broadcaster speechless: something even the oldest among us find hard to remember.

With the idea of breaking away from the image that the festival had had in the past, the organizers, in association with the local section of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (the National Distance University of Spain), invited a five star big band under the direction of saxophonist Bob Sands: 17 top class musicians and their instruments and paraphernalia who nearly filled the plane that shuttles between the North African enclave of Melilla and the Spanish mainland. Only those familiar with the day to day complications of life in Melilla will appreciate the effort that the band had to make, which was amply rewarded by a dazzling concert held in the city’s Palacio de Congresos.

The band opened in no half-hearted fashion with Groovin hard by Buddy Rich, and what followed was a whirlwind of top flight orchestral jazz with the pedal to the metal, punctuated every now and then with a solo confirming the already recognized talent of Bobby Martínez, or the still to be discovered talent of guitarist Israel Sandoval. Classic numbers sounded as if they’d been laid down yesterday: from Kenny Dorham to Count Basie, and the music of Basie’s arranger Sammy Nestico or sideman Frank Foster. And, to finish, more Buddy Rich (Love for sale).

So near and yet so far, the city of Melilla was, for just one night, the jazz capital of Spain, and provided an early tribute to the lifelong work of Cifu, a tribute that won’t be the last. He’s deserved it.
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