Top-notch Jazz in Funchal

Portugal’s biggest Jazz festival returns to its usual stage in Parque de Santa Catarina for three nights of six concerts.

Award-winners and nominees, from the Grammys and other prizes, distinguished names, rising stars. Once the recipe was established and the ingredients gathered, so has the Funchal Jazz Festival remained a distinguished and critically-acclaimed product year after year. That is the goal maintained by the artistic director Paulo Barbosa for whom the level of artistic programming ought to be ‘as high as possible’.

It all comes down to the music, he explains: ‘the music makes the moment, but in jazz, and especially when it’s live, the moment equally makes the music’. That is why there is no need to ‘reinvent the wheel’, as long as ‘the programme features musicians who themselves are great artists, and therefore great “inventors”, creators whose greatness shines through every moment they’re on stage’.

‘This year will be no different’, the director tells Essential, confident that the six shows scheduled for the main stage of Parque de Santa Catarina on the 11th, 12th, and 11th July will honour tradition. Ben Wendel, Gregory Porter, João Barradas, Terence Blanchard, Melissa Aldana and Dianne Reeves are among the headliners, some them returning artists.

Paulo Barbosa expects surprises ‘through improve, spontaneous communication among the musicians, the way they challenge and react to each other and also, without a shadow of a doubt, the way they connect to the audience through this music which is so noble and special’ from these artists and their on-stage ensembles.

The first concert will be played by the Ben Wendel Seasons band, who include Grammy-nominee Ben Wendel, together with Gilad Hekselman, on the guitar, Aaron Parks on the piano, Matt Brewer on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums. The concert offers an interpretation based on the year’s seasons.

Afterwards will be the turn of soul-jazz singer Gregory Porter, playing with Tivon Pennicott on tenor saxophone, Albert ‘Chip’ Crawford on the piano, Jahmal Nichols on bass and Emanuel Harrold on drums.

July 12th belongs to João Barradas, one of Portugal’s foremost accordion players at only 21 years-old, joined by Ben Van Gelder on high sax, Simon Moullier on the vibraphone, Luca Alemanno on bass and Naíma Acuña on drums.

Then it is multiple award-winning trumpet player Terence Blanchard’s turn, in a tribute to Art Blakey, accompanied by Charles Altura on the guitar, Fabuan Almazan on piano, David Ginyard on electric bass and Oscar Seaton on drums.

The last day of the festival sees the Melissa Aldana Quartet take to the stage, with the award-winning saxophone player illustrating her experience as a woman in a world of men. The quartet also includes Lage Lund on guitar, Pablo Menares on bass and Kush Abadey on drums.

Funchal Jazz closes with the consecrated North-American singer Dianne Reeves, accompanied by Romero Lubambo on guitar, Peter Martin on piano, Reginald Veal on bass and electric bass and Terreon Gully on drums.

Funchal Jazz remains ‘undoubtedly, Portugal’s biggest jazz festival in terms of audience and also one of the most renowned outdoor festivals’, mentions Paulo Barbosa as he highlights the importance the event is given by musicians and agents from North-America, where most if the participants hail from.

‘We can’t predict exactly how many people will be at Parque de Santa Catarina this year, but, as I mentioned, given the programme we managed to build, we hope (and need) the largest audience ever!, the artistic director concludes.

Scat hosts again hosts jam sessions after the concerts. This year there will be a host quartet, composed by guitarist Nuno Ferreira, bassist António Quintino and drummer Luís Candeias, who are joined by saxophone player João Mortágua, who Paulo Barbosa considers ‘one of the most amazing jazz improve players ever to be made in Portugal’.