26 July 2021 **** Front Page
By Tapani Lausti
I have often been raving about Kenny Barron's piano playing on these pages. But in this year's Almuñécar jazz festival (Jazz en la Costa) something extraordinary happened. With a quartet of top musicians the music reached heights that made me think that I was experiencing one of the best jazz concerts ever.
With vibraphonist Steve Nelson. bassist Peter Washington and drummer Johnathan Blake the quartet created music that afterwards played in my head until I went to sleep. With musical tributes to jazz geniuses like Thelonious Monk and other jazz greats, one could not help feeling that music cannot get much better than this. The ensemble playing was as good as it gets, and the drummer was often greeted with enthusiastic reactions to his solos and lively interludes.
Kenny Barron is well known to Almuñécar jazz festival audiences. Pianist Brad Mehldau, however, performed for the first time in Almuñécar and was warmly greeted by the audience. (Many years ago we heard him play in Málaga.)
In contrast to Barron's concert, Mehldau trio's lovely music was more intimate, sometimes even pensive. The surroundings, Parque de Majuelo tropical park, helped to create a wonderfully peaceful background to the music. The great bassist Larry Grenadier has been playing with Mehldau for many years. He created a nice togetherness with the pianist. The drummer Jeff Ballard added to the relaxed feeling, whilst occasionally exploding into a forceful solo.
For us Majuelo park concerts have been an annual source of enjoyment during the last 20 years. This year we suddenly realised that the superb Spanish pianist Jose Carra was sitting behind us listening to Mehldau's concert. He greeted us by removing briefly his Covid mask to confirm his identity since we have known each other for many years. He regretted having missed Kenny Barron's concert because he had a gig in Seville that night.