Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest Turns 25!

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Puerto Rico jeineken Jazzfest 2012

Puerto Rico jeineken Jazzfest 2012

It’s that time of year when jazz lovers from every corner of Puerto Rico, and many other countries, gather at the Tito Puente Amphitheater, in San Juan, Puerto Rico to enjoy four consecutive days of the best music in the world! And this year it’s going to be even better, as the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary bringing the best jazz talent to our little island in the Caribbean.

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The first official Heineken Jazzfest was celebrated in 1991 and it featured international stars like Cuban saxophonist Paquito de Rivera, Peruvian drummer Alex Acuña, Mexican bassist Abraham Laboriel, Puerto Rican trumpet player Humberto Ramírez and Puerto Rican percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. And that was just a taste of what would become one of the most exquisite jazz events in the world.

Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés during the 2001 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés during the 2001 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Throughout its 25-year history the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest has featured local and international artists such as: Michel Camilo, Andy Narell, Amuny Nacer, Mongo Santamaría, Slide Hampton, Jorge Laboy, Carlos Guedes, Diane Schur, David Sánchez, Elliot Feyjoo, William Cepeda, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Eddie Gómez, Ignacio Berroa, The Yellow Jackets, Tito Puente, Hilton Ruiz, Israel López “Cachao”, Roberto Perera, Kenny Burrell, Ray Barreto, Spyro Gyra, Joe Lovano, Diana Krall, Eddie Palmieri, Arturo Sandoval, Bob James, Earl Klugh, Billy Taylor, Eliane Elías, Jerry Medina, Poncho Sánchez, The Rippintons, Batacumbele, The Manhattan Transfer, Dave Valentín, Strunz and Farah, Chucho Valdés, Tania María, Irakere, Patato Valdés, Al Jarreau, Acoustic Alchemy, Miguel Zenón, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Nueva Manteca, Airto Moreira, Gato Barbieri, Monty Alexander, Diane Reeves, Gal Costa, Al Di Meola, Néstor Torres, John Faddis, Buddy Guy, Egui Castrillo, Dave Samuels, Carli Muñoz, Negroni’s Trio, Lee Ritenour, The Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Ramsey Lewis, Stanley Clarke, Paco de Lucía, McCoy Tyner and many, many others.

Cachete Maldonado during the1999 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Cachete Maldonado. Click on image to see it larger.

This year the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest’s lineup couldn’t get any better. It all starts on Thursday, March 26, with the “Julito Alvarado Jazz Group” followed by “Millo Torres and Planeta Jazz”. Both these musicians have visited the Jazzfest’s stage before and they’re sure to kick the festival into high gear from the very start.

Friday it all begins with Grammy award winning Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sánchez and his Quintet followed by world renowned Puerto Rican bassist Eddie Gómez and his Quartet and the all star group “Volcan” featuring Cuban bassist José Armando Gola, Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, Puerto Rican percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. These artists have recorded over 150 albums (together or individually) which have led to various Grammy Awards.

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Saturday night Larry Monroe takes the stage with veteran jazz singer Donna McElroy. Larry and Donna are no strangers to the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest. Not only is Larry, a virtuoso saxophonist by trade, but he also had a long and distinguished career with the Berklee College of Music, one of the festival’s most important collaborators. Donna has also been a mentor and educator at Berkley during her long and illustrious career.

Michel Camilo, Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest 2000

Michel Camilo. Click on image to see it larger

Saturday’s second act features Michel Camilo with a new concept that he likes to call “Three + Three”, which also features: Michael Bowie, Dafnis Prieto, Ralph Bowen, Alexandre Sipiaguine, Patrick La Marca and Conrad Herwig. Camilo is a Dominican virtuoso piano player who has won the Grammy, Latin Grammy and Emmy awards with his lightning fast style and innovative arrangements.

And to top it all off Mexican bassist Abraham Laboriel and his group “Open Hands” take the stage to make this a Saturday night that you’ll remember forever. Laboriel played the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest in 2012 when he was the event’s honoree. “Open Hands” also features Justo Almario, Greg Mathieson y Bill Maxwell.

Sunday the event comes to an end, but by no means does it slow down. Not by a long shot. Eddie Palmieri and his Afro-Caribbean Jazz Septet kick off the night with high energy Afro-Caribbean Jazz rhythms that are sure to bring you to your feet. Then Giovanni Tommaso and his Consonanti Quartet add their European jazz touch to round off the festival. And the for the grand finale something that many of us “regulars” have been suggesting for years: the “25th Anniversary All-Star Presentation” conducted by Michelle Camilo featuring many surprise stars that have played the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest during its 25-year history.

Poncho Sánchez during the 2006 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Poncho Sánchez. Click on image to see it larger.

So, what’s the plan? Well, if you are a jazz lover like me and you’re still enduring this year’s miserable weather (which I haven’t), why not take a few days off, catch a flight to Puerto Rico, stay at one of our excellent hotels, spend your days at the beach and enjoy an event like no other in the world?

Tickets start are just $20 for Thursday night and $30 per night from Friday thru Sunday. Even better, you can buy a Jazz Pass covering all four nights for just $100. Where else in the world can you enjoy this kind of talent for just $25 per night?

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Tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketpop.com or at “La Bodega De Méndez” in Guaynabo (787) 277-5800, Ponce (787) 651-1999 or Añasco (787) 826-7570.

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For more information visit the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest website at www.prheinekenjazz.com. Photos courtesy of Joe Colón.

Enjoy Puerto Rico!

©2015,Orlando Mergal, MA
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