I attended the opening night of the Ecuador Jazz 2015 Festival last night, part of an energized sell-out crowd treated to the incomparable and penetrating smoky contralto of Cassandra Wilson. Her’s was a voice that made me cry. I can’t begin to explain how fortunate I feel that my current stint in Quito coincided with Wilson’s first visit.
And with the scheduling of the 11-day event as well which concludes with an outdoor performance at the Plaza del Teatro in Quito’s historical center on Sunday March 8.
Besides hosting the likes of Wilson and English soul sensation Joss Stone this year, the festival also provides an impressive venue – the Teatro Nacional Sucre, or Sucre National Theatre— for regional and national acts to share the spotlight with some of their better known contemporaries. Organizers of the festival’s 11th edition have made room on the program nearly each day for local acts, which provides me with the perfect excuse to put together this quick primer on Ecuadorian jazz, beginning with a small selection of groups scheduled to appear here through March 8.
I can’t go into too much detail on each of the four performers listed here because they’re as new to me as they are to many of you, so consider this as little more than a decent starting point, with some videos and links, on the country’s jazz scene from which to explore further. Feel free to mention or leave links in the comments to more Ecuadoran jazz artists you’re familiar with. Enjoy!
Pies en la Tierra
Pies en la Tierra, or Down to Earth, was last night’s opening act. I found their offering a very nice meld of urban styles and contemporary Jazz, delivered in a laid back Andean sensibility. (The performance featured a guest appearance by Swedish percussionist Anders Astrand, a very nice treat.) They proved a worthy kick-off for Wilson’s whimsically sensual performance later on. Formed in 2013, the band has participated in several international festivals in Spain and South America.
Formed in 2008, this seven piece band fuses traditional regional sounds with contemporary themes to create a jazz improv style all their own. Represented Ecuador at the 2013 Cubadisco Festival in Havana. Their first album was released in 2014.
Headlining the opening act for Joss Stone’s appearance is Perico Sambeat, considered one of the finest jazz musicians in Spain. Here he’ll take the stage leading a quintet that includes Ecuadoran bassist Daniel Toledo and Polish pianist Piotr Orzechowski; the latter pair teamed up with British drummer Joshua Wheatley last year for Elapse, a recording of five original compositions by Toledo. A review of the recording is here.