I brought my quintet to Puerto Rico on Friday to play the Heineken Jazz Festival. The musicians - Marcus Printup (tpt), Dan Nimmer (pno), Carlos Henriquez (bass), and Ali Jackson (drms) - really put their hearts and souls into the music. We opened for Ramsey Lewis and Stanley Clarke’s bands, performing the quintet version of my long-from composition Portrait in Seven Shades (originally written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra). I like this smaller version just as much as the big band arrangement. I kept most of the textures and colors of the original, but rearranged it for this instrumentation, which was a challenge, and particularly tricky on Picasso. The cats rose to the occasionally by nailing some very technically challenging passages.
It was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop some very dedicated jazz fans from sitting in the drenched seats in this completely outdoor venue. The view from the stage was a sea of different colored umbrellas, which would shake like laughing marionettes when people applauded, one of their two clapping hands simultaneously engaged in gripping the umbrella’s base.
I did something on this concert I have never done before: sing in public (except perhaps for Happy Birthday, and some Christmas carols). The lyrics I wrote for Van Gogh (beautifully sung by Vincent Gardner on the recording by the JLCO) could not be ignored, run from, stashed away in some filing cabinet. Telling Van Gogh’s story with words was the whole point of that movement. Anyway, no one threw any mangos, cañas (sugar cane) or guavas at me, so I guess it was okay.
I was feeling a little disappointed that the weather was less than ideal, but we were lucky we got to play at all - the following day, the third night of the festival, the performance was canceled due to flooding.
My manager, Ileana Palmieri, who spent much of her childhood in Puerto Rico, new the exact spot to take us for lunch: a rather nondescript hole-in-the-wall, famous for their authentic, down-home dishes. I had mofongo, and of course rice and beans.
Our flight back was quite eventful: an hour into our flight an infant became ill and we had to return to San Juan. After refueling we were back in the air, but about three hours behind schedule. A couple hours later, an hour outside of JFK, a passenger in my row had an epileptic seizure. One of those days...
Here are a couple articles - one a preview piece (in Spanish), and the other a review (English) of the concert. Check ‘em out!