HIROMI & EDMAR CASTANEDA DUO | Montreal International Jazz Festival

Festivals are great places to meet people — chatting to other audience members at a gig, getting a tip for a show from a member of staff, encountering new music that you didn’t intend to see but ends up being a surprise favourite. Well, it turns out that this experience is true for artists too.

A year ago, Hiromi and Edmar met in Montreal. Fast-forward 12 months and here they are on the stage of Monument-National in a sonic partnership that surprises even them — that’s probably the appeal. ‘Fast’ forward is misleading though as while there is at times a frenetic energy to what they do, there is a supreme amount of poise and control in what’s going on. They bow to one another before they play, summoning some form of hybrid Japanese/Colombian power for a fusion that is all at once trail-blazing and familiar.

From the first piece — Edmar’s ‘A Harp in New York’ — there is a tremendous amount of happiness on stage with both artists play-dancing on and around their instrument. It also transpires that as well as the harp’s sprightly upper range (as featured in most of our imaginations when picturing a twinkly, classical harp) it plays a mean baseline when in the hands (and effects) of Edmar Castaneda. This is showcased in the veritable groove-off that is Pastorius-inspired ‘For Jaco’. This pairing of musicians is also deeply emotional with Hiromi playing ‘Moonlight Sunshine’ her heartfelt tribute for the Japan Earthquake and Edmar’s expression of faith, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. The musical flow of the 4-part piano and harp suite ‘Elements’ that closes the set is disrupted a tad by the harp tuning in between each ‘song’ although it’s a price worth paying for this instrumental complexion.

Throughout the show the dexterity of each performer is something to behold. Whereas for some, this level of technical control is accompanied with furrowed perspiration, Hiromi and Edmar exude a positivity and creative dynamism that bodes extremely well for the development of this partnership. What a discovery to make at a festival.

Festival international de Jazz de Montréal runs from 28 June to 8 July. You can view the whole programme here.

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