Lionel Loueke / Edmar Castaneda – Madison Square Park – July 6, 2011
A double bill of two worthy trio acts (not enough time to do percussionists for either). Castaneda is (to my knowledge) the NYC go-to jazz harp man these days – we’ve seen him in this context before. That said, he brings much more, as the instrument drives the music in its own direction, unique to the harpist’s inclination, often hard to describe in words. I’m not sure if there is a standard jazz harp canon. Here, the influence of South America was strong; his wife, the lovely Andrea Tierra, joined in to provide impassioned vocals on a few tunes.
The journey that headliner Loueke took us on was yet more astounding. He’s got the straight & straight ahead jazz chops down and we heard that early on. But his African background (Benin) took prominence after a while, a whole other concept of guitar playing. First off, the instrument itself, not really like anything else I’ve seen. Or heard, as on one tune he got going with an extreme string popping technique, turning the ax into a tuned percussion instrument, it being unclear to me how those sounds were emanating from it. And that was not the only thing that he did that I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Truly ear-opening. By the way, I have no idea what his inscription says, or even if it is in English.
On a different pleasure scale, it is true that I am working with a small overall sample size, but I got my best ever street Halal ($5 mix plate special) from a vendor across Broadway from the park. Scarf therapy, total satiation.