| THE NEW YORKER
World-class jazz on a Dairy Farm in Punta del Este 2002
Now in its seventh year, the Punta del Este Jazz Festival has become a staple of the local music scene and a much awaited event for jazz lovers from Argentina, Uruguay and beyond. One of the greatest gatherings of jazz taalent in Latin America, this year's festival will be held january 10-13. Featured musicians include saxophonist Joe Lovano and harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans, one of the jazz world's best-loved musicians, among many others.
The festival's small theater and athe silence of the countryside sets the stage for an intimate encounter with music. Far from the famous nightlife of Punta del Este with its celebrities and frenetic partying, one can discover jazz in its raw, unadulterated state.
This magical event will take place during what one hopes will be four star-studded nights-literally: since the festival takes place in an open-air amphitheater where only the stage is covered, bad weather can lead to curious situations. In 1999, Danilo Pérez finished his concert with audience gathered on-stage around his piano to shelter from a storm while organizers fratted that someone would get electrocuted. Last year, gale warnings led to the postponement of Kenny Garrett's much-awaited set. When the festival's organizers finally convinced the brilliant but temperamental Garrett to perform the following morning, it turned into one of the most riveting performances of the event.
This year's line-up promises to be just a rewarding. One of the most exciting names on the roster is the Belgian harmonica player Toots Thielemans, the first musician to blend jazz and the harmonica. Thielemans, who turns 80 this year, has played with musicians raning from Edith Piaf to Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Bill Evans and the great Ella Fitzgerald. He is also known for his films scores and compositions, including Bluesette and the theme song for the popular children's program “Sesame Street”. His sensitive harmonica playing – somewhere between a smile and a tear, he says – is one of the most anxiously awaited performances of the festival.
Saxophonist Joe Lovano arrives in Punta del Este with his trio. Lovano was recently christened both jazz artist and tenor saxophonist of the year in a Down Beat magazine reader'poll. Not only that, in the same poll his album 52 nd Street Themes (Blue Note) was chosen as the best jazz album of the year.
Other artists include Donald Harrison and his quartet, guitarrist Russell Malone (the subtle guitar playing behind Diana Krall's breathless voice is Malone's work), the Chano Dominguez Flamenco Sextet, the Benny Green Trio, and Brazilian singer Rosa Passos. Local favorites José Rynoso and Adrian Iaies will perform with their trios. And as allways Paquito D'Rivera, the festifal's music director. Will perform several sets throughout the four days and close down the festival with his own quintet.
The festival is the handiwork of Francisco Yovino, an entrepreneur and dreamer whose passion for good jazz is legendary: when his cows are being milked they are treated to jazz over loudspeakers – and not pleasent, easy-listening stuff but way-out, wild flights of fancy by the likes of John Coltrane.
Whether the music has any effect over the quality of the dairy's milk (wich eventually ends up as dulce de leche) is debatable, but athere is no dubt that the bucolic surroundings and the cows make fine jazz festival even finer.
Punta del Este Jazz Festival, Punta del Este, Uruguay. January 10-13.Tickets: $ 60 per day. Tel. (598) 42-230-004 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org