When Edmar Castaneda enters the stage it’s a hilarious picture. He’s standing next to his Columbian harp, which seems to be 1,5 times bigger then his body. Introducing with filigree solo, that gives bright sounds and weighty bass sounds. Rodrigo Villalon on the drums and Marshall Gilkes on the trombone join him softly. The crowd feels the exotic atmosphere; it reminds of a hot summer night.
The speed continuously rises. His harp is getting more and more intense. It’s a rotation and interplay at the same time between trumpet and harp. The drums give the beat as Castaneda and Gilkes push each other. They’re playing breathlessly. Again there’s a wonderful solo from Castaneda, finishing the first song. The applause rises, and he already knows that he has taken the audience a step closer to an exotic Columbian beach.
He starts another piece hectically, just to give the others an opportunity to slow him down. This unhurried moment will not rest a long time. Once again they’re pushing each other. The strong and powerful trombone is in perfect middle for the deep and high sounds of the harp. His voice calling: “We just warmed up!”, and his very sympathetic way of handling the audience, increases the expectations for the following.
The following song has more melancholic and melodic sound. Again Castaneda speaks: “Any Columbians here”? No answer. “OK, they will come later.” It seems he can feel the cultural differences and knows how to relax the mood. His happiness and carelessness infect the crowd. You just want to start moving. The sound is going up and down. He sometimes abruptly disturbs the relaxed atmosphere.
His most energetic moment was playing an insane solo. It’s so fast and changing all the time that it reminds me of Jimi Hendrix. His fingers are unbelievable fast rushing over the strings. After that they change style. Influences of flamenco bring in variety. All of them are on the same level, no one is dominating.
The piece Jesus de Nazareth is something special for him. He tells that music has central place in his life. Castaneda is passion; he needs the harp to express and pray. He’s becoming one with this instrument.
It is undeniable how well he brings new elements into his tunes. Strong riffs interrupt his continuous play. The trio is working very well together. They drive each other to the climax.
When the last song – inspired by Brazilian samba – finishes, the crowd applauds for minutes. Impressed by the energy and happiness they return on stage.
With the added harmonica they drift into ecstasy. It’s an unbelievable improvisation, where everyone knows what to do and what to expect from the others. It is a fascinating mix, displaying his amazing technique. Castaneda juggles lead, rhythm and bass lines, using a variety of hard and soft string attacks to keep those voices distinct — all without giving up the groove.
The only thing I regret is, the concert was not on a Cuban beach, though Edmar Castaneda Trio brought the whole audience a step closer to it.
Edmar Castaneda Trio
April 23 at the Marina Pavilion
Edmar Castaneda – Columbian harp
Marshall Gilkes – Trombone
Rodrigo Villalon – Drums