On Saturday, March 14, two of the best known guitarists in jazz panorama, Biel Ballester and Dave Mitchell, performed as a trio with the double bass player Leandro Hipaucha. Once again, Kumu Auditorium pleasantly hosted one of the concerts under the winter edition of Jazzkaar, this time in collaboration with Iberofest, a Spanish-Latin cultural festival promoted by the Spanish Embassy in Tallinn.
As Biel explained to the audience after the first track, the tunes wanted to be a mix between different jazz voices, as the trio itself is a mix between different roots: Spanish, American and Latin-American influences created an ensemble of classic jazz blues and gypsy vibes. Biel Ballester, as some probably already know, was born in Palma de Mallorca and after studying classical guitar at the prestigious Luthier School of Barcelona with teachers such as Alex Garrobé and Fernando Rodriguez, he developed his career combining Django-Reinhardt-based manouche heritage with the Mediterranean musical tradition. Dave Mitchell as well used to be influenced by Spanish and Mediterranean culture, as he has been living in Barcelona since 1989, even though he was born in Kansas City (USA). The collaboration between the two guitarists started last year, when they worked on Biel’s last recording “Lower and East Combo” gathering their backgrounds together. The compositions performed by the trio during the concert, mostly taken from the their album “The Low Down”, brought the audience a vibrant portrait of New York City jazz scene, where the guitar has actually been one of the main protagonists. As Biel and Dave have always been connected to that city, most of the tunes are tributes to friends, places, moments and experiences spent there. Tracks as “The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn Tune”, “The Ancient Broadway March” or “Long Island Youth” talk about feelings, emotions, ideas and are arranged with a balance between sensitivity and lyricism. On stage the result was an alternation between smooth and strong sounds, arpeggios and sweep pickings, made with different intensity by sliding or tapping the strings. Although the swinging game between Biel and Dave was really bright and their improvisations gave different shades to the tunes, the bass lines of Leandro emphasized the rhythmic base. In this way, the standard jazz blues scales were perfectly combined with fresh inspirations. The atmosphere of the West Coast was evoked mixing jazz fragments with gypsy patterns from the Mediterranean music scene (the same vibes we can recognize, for example, in some of the soundtracks of the Woody Allen’s movie “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” whit whom Biel had previously contributed). For sure, the lively vibes let the audience feel the waves from both sides of the Atlantic and let’s say the manouche touch created an atmosphere more intimate than something structured, as usually jazz music tends to do, at least for the ones who don’t have a technical knowledge of the matter. I remember how funny it was when Biel talked ironically about gypsy style among musicians.
“Travelling as gypsies – he started to tell to the public – everything can happen. And now you see us playing so relaxed, but two hours ago we were on panic! Dave’s guitar was totally broken!”
Of course, besides the funny story, there was the intent to say thanks to that Estonian music store where they could borrow a new guitar for the concert, as well as to say thanks to Estonian people for the hospitality, but anyway it was really nice how the musicians interacted spontaneously with the audience.
Biel Ballester and Dave Mitchell Trio
March 14th 2015 at Tallinn, Kumu Auditorium
Biel Ballester: guitar
Dave Mitchell: guitar
Leandro Hipaucha: double bass