A Bolling night at the Miami World Music Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Flutist Nestor Torres performed works of Claude Bolling Thursday night at the Miami World Music Festival.

Flutist Nestor Torres performed works of Claude Bolling Thursday night at the Miami World Music Festival.

The Miami World Music Festival opened on Thursday night with a program of works by jazz pianist and composer Claude Bolling at Florida International University’s Wertheim Auditorium.

Bolling’s jazz-classical fusion scores are rarely played in South Florida. The program offered first-rate performances of three of his pieces. Yet despite the participation of popular Miami flutist Nestor Torres, the audience was disappointingly small.

The French have frequently shown a talent for absorbing vernacular influences and pouring jazz into classical molds. From the effervescent scores of Poulenc and Milhaud of Les Six to the contemporary  jazz of Bolling and Jacques Loussier, French composers and arrangers have managed this combination of genres with great skill.

Bolling had great success in the mid-1970′s with his Suite for Flute and Piano, the first of several scores written for flute virtuoso Jean-Pierre Rampal. The Suite No. 2 for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio was Bolling’s final collaboration with Rampal, dating from 1987. More than a mere opener, the suite’s extended six movements formed the concert’s entire first half. Melodically rich and idiomatically conceived, the score is a total delight. Alternating between jazzy Baroque and Gallic lightness, this confection draws on such diverse stylistic paths as Bachian counterpoint and romantic melodies in the manner of Cole Porter.

A Latin Grammy winner, Torres has long been a powerhouse in pop and jazz. His forays into the classical repertoire have been more hit and miss. Still, Torres proved a natural match for Bolling’s suite. With the exception of some stridency in the first movement cadenza, his tone was silvery and pure. In the third movement Affectueuse, Torres spun a dark, lyrical and sensuous melodic line. He reveled in the rapid, triple-tongued fast movements with nimble articulation.

Pianist (and festival director) Adolfo Vidal shaded the blues-tinged riffs deftly. Luis Gomez-Imbert was the skilled bassist and Ruben Gimenez’s percussion trap set provided rhythmic underpinning.

Bolling’s Concerto for Classic Guitar and Jazz Piano Trio (1975) has become a standard for pop, jazz and classical guitarists alike. Moving effortlessly from Latin-infused color to boogie-woogie and soft rock, the score is a bravura tour de force for the solo guitarist.

Newly appointed director of guitar studies at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music Rafael Padron assayed the score with a light touch. He proved equally supple in spinning Baroque ornamentation or swinging in the big band manner, always exhibiting acute musicianship.

Bolling’s Picnic Suite seems like a warmed-over retread of his previous works without half the inspiration, the piano writing obvious and heavy handed. The piece brought all of the concert’s players together with Torres and Padron blending gracefully in duo.

The Miami World Music Festival continues through Sunday at the FIU Wertheim Auditorium with programs featuring zarzuela highlights and music from Venezuela, Africa and India. 786-581-7746; miamiworldmusicfestival.com.

Posted in Performances


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Fri Sep 20, 2013
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