Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Alambique - Jazz Finds a Home in Northern Spain

Gijon is a perky little city on the northern coast of Spain in the Principality of Asturias. It's a city with a lot of pride, history and a very strong sense of its own identity. Read my post 20 Years of Xixon Sound for a more detailed description of the city and its place in the history of Spanish rock.

For jazz fans in Gijon, Thursday night is jazz night in the Cafe Alambique. It's not famous. It has no great history and you can probably only fit around 40 or 50 people into it at any one time (though there is a terrace outside) but it is a great place to see bands. Especially jazz bands. You can enjoy a beer standing right next to the drummer or position yourself right opposite the sax player. So it’s very face to face and the acoustics are brilliant. I particularly love the sound of the acoustic double bass. It has a really sensual quality that comes over live but never seems to record well. In the Alambique it sounds really funky. However if you prefer you can just prop up the bar or sit at one of the tables (if there is room) and still only be feet away from the band.

For me this is the way to listen to jazz. It really is a live music. It exists in and for a moment. The musicians create, develop and explore ideas and need to listen and respond to each other in an instant. CDs and vinyl LPs may record the performances but the way to really experience jazz is to have it happening live right in front of you and to see and feel how the music is created from moment to moment. For me, that’s the thrill. To see it fly when it could quite easily fall apart and crash.

And the jazz flies at the Alambique on Thursday nights. There have been occasional excursions into blues, rock and soul but what has really surprised me over the last year or so has been the exceptional quality of the jazz on offer.

For example, this last Thursday I saw a stunning set by the Cesar Latorre trio which was so extraordinary it pretty much inspired me to write this post. The week before there was a really impressive set by the Adrian Carrio Quintet. Before that we had an excellent night with the Jacobo de Miguel trio. A month ago French guitarist Wilfried Wilde's trio played... I could go on, the quality of groups and performances is so consistently high.

So this post is an homage to the Alambique and some of the fine music I have seen there. If you live in Gijon, or are just passing through on a Thursday, go and check out what's on at the Alambique this week. Entrance is free and for the price of a beer or two you can see and listen to some pretty fine music. Their facebook page is regularly updated with what's on or coming up and is here

None of the clips below were filmed in the Alambique. The bands were chosen quite randomly because they have all played there in the last month or so. All the musicians featured here are from Asturias. I think you'll agree there's a lot of good jazz here.

Jazz has found a home in Asturias.

Cesar Latorre is from Gijon but is now based in Amsterdam. He has released one CD called Fastforward of a Day". His playing is inventive, occasionally slightly berserk and full of imagination. The two sets played last Thursday night showed breathtaking virtuosity and an entertaining playfulness which was, for me anyway, occasionally reminiscent of Thelonius Monk. Check out the video below and his website here

Adrián Carrio is from Oviedo so is another local lad. He has toured the UK, Europe, Japan and the USA in the last six or seven years. I was quite impressed by the horn section at this gig and the band really swung. Lot of soul.
Check the clip below and his page here

The line-up on the clip below is Javier Rubio: alto sax
, Eladio Díaz: tenor sax, 
Adrian Carrio: Piano, 
David Casillas: double bass and 
Felix Morales: drums.

Jacobo de Miguel is another Asturian musician. I've seen him a couple of times at the Alambique now. Another excellent keyboard player with a strong melodic sense.

The 15 minute clip below, although not recorded at the Alambique, gives you an idea of the variety, skill and quality of music on offer most Thursday nights.

Asturias > Eight Miles High - Roger McGuinn

20 years of Xixon Sound

"Cool" - BBC Arena documentary

The Horace Silver Quintet - "Song for My Father" on Danish TV 1968

What is Bebop? - The Subject is Jazz

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