Archives for posts with tag: Punta del Este Uruguay
Festival entrance, Swing Street, Punta Ballena

At the Festival entrance, Swing Street, Punta Ballena

The Festival Internacional de Jazz de Punta del Este in Uruguay is in its 17th year. A festival on a dairy farm, its main venue is an outdoor stage set in picturesque countryside at Punta Ballena outside the beach resort of Punta del Este, 3 hours along the south coast from Montevideo. (See www.festival.com.uy/ )

Image

The main stage in its setting

Punta is a place where people feel comfortable – here LBJ attended an American summit in 1967, the World Trade Organisation began with the Uruguay GATT talks here in 1986, American film stars buy houses here.

The Festival office

The Festival office

Dairy farmer Francisco Yobino began a jazz festival here in 1996. His Finca del Sosiego was doing well making dulce de leche – milk-and-sugar fudge, a popular dessert in Latin America – and he had diversified into leisure activities. His first love, jazz, proved irresisitible.

Front row, great view, good sponsorship

Front row, great view, good sponsorship

He is no longer farming, but the show goes on. The musical director is veteran Cuban clarinettist Paquito D’Rivera, an international performer and composer, one of three band leaders featured on the night we went.

Image

Main stage pre-show

The music began while it was light, led by drummer Carlos Carli. He’s a long-time collaborator with D’Rivera, born in Uruguay – and very pleased to be back – now running a music school in Madrid, and he’s played with Gary Burton and Pat Metheney among others. With Ricardo León on piano and Cono Castro on acoustic bass, we had a tight rhythm section.

 ... playing as the sun set

As the sun sets …

His ensemble featured Spanish bandoneon player Leonel Gasso, a well-known accompanist of tango singers and a veteran of tango shows. The bandoneon – a concertina originally from Germany and a standard instrument in the tango’s orquesta típica – is an unusual jazz voice.

… the music starts

Gasso gave it full play – and in the more familiar tango repertoire of Astor Piazzolla – playing the instrument balanced on one knee while the jazz flowed steadily underneath.

Image

Carlos Carli Cuarteto

The audience, many of a certain age, and from Brazil as well as from Argentina and Uruguay, responded enthusiastically, though no-one danced the tango … The Uruguyan Vice-President was reported among the audience, a sign of how seriously Uruguay takes its culture.

Blissed-out audience

Blissed-out audience

As darkness fell, Paquito on clarinet and Diego Urcola on trumpet guested with Carli, bringing on the night in style. They stayed on stage for the second set, joined by Alex and Zachary Brown on piano and acoustic bass, and Eric Doob on drums – young US musicians who also played an impressive bracket as a piano trio. The Quinteto played a series of classical melodies – Bach, Chopin, Beethoven et al – in a jazz vein, improvising around the well-known tunes with great good humour.

Paquito D'Rivera Quinteto

Paquito D’Rivera Quinteto

D’Rivera plays with strong rhythmic drive and lyrical sweetness. And he’s an accomplished showman as well, chatting and joking with his audience, and giving his colleagues room to shine. We were in a fine frame of mind at the second interval. I strolled around for a look at the festival.

Evening dining hall

Evening dining hall

The dining room was being prepared for the after-concert paella and, the PA system in the corner suggested, a musical feast too. Corporate sponsors could enjoy the use of a pavilion with table service close to the stage during the concert, though there were no takers this time. Some people did come dressed for dinner.

Fresh air and music

Fresh air and music

The well-organised facilities also included simpler food and drink – that essential for an enjoyable evening in Uruguay, the parilla or barbecue grill, was doing a roaring trade.

Asado in full swing

Asado or barbecue in full swing

Punta has about 10,000 residents, 15,000 if you include the surrounding country, but it is boosted hugely by tourists during the summer. An evening’s jazz was an inviting prospect after a day at the beach – the 500-odd seats had almost all been taken. Perhaps it was the fresh night air thinning out the crowd.

Outdoor auditorium

Outdoor auditorium at interval

The final band of the evening, the Gary Smulyan Quintet, hails from New York. Once again a trio of hugely competent young musicians drove the rhythm section – Mike LeDonne on piano, John Webber on acoustic bass, Joe Farnsworth on drums – enabling Gary Smulyan and special guest Joe Magnarelli on trumpet to run wild and free.

The Gary Smulyan Quintet

The Gary Smulyan Quintet

A diminutive figure, Smulyan sports a baritone sax which he plays with startling ferocity and attack, though he can also blow sweet and low. The aficionados who remained were treated to a whirlwind tribute to cool jazz and bebop giants of the instrument Gerry Mulligan and Pepper Adams.

On this showing, Punta serves up a good-natured and world-class festival. Other Punta venues also deliver excellent music. Medio y Medio runs a sell-out mini-festival in a characterful Punta Ballena venue, while the Conrad Hotel and casino offers a wide range of theatre, music variety, and floor-shows. There’s a good chance that summer visitors to Punta can find a cool end to their summer holidays.

Birth of the cool ... is that a halo or a music disc?

Birth of the cool … is that a halo or a music disc?

In the Switzerland of South America – in Montevideo, Colonia and Punta del Este – a unique Uruguayan approach to cars can be seen. Cars are expensive and the climate is benign, so the road along the south coast from Montevideo to Punta boasts gently rusting fields which present a history of the car in the twentieth century. And some are on the street …

Image

Mid-20th century car on 17th-century street, Colonia. Not the rustiest road-going car I saw …

At Carrasco airport, the taxi fleet is dominated by white C-class Mercedes estates, and the long-distance bus services are frequent and excellent. The transport infrastructure is sound.

Land transport, República Oriental del Uruguay Armada

Land transport, República Oriental del Uruguay Armada, Colonia

The familiar brands are there.

Champion spark plug, Montevideo

Champion spark plug, Montevideo

In Punta, playground of the rich, you see plenty of Porsches and the odd Ferrari, while at the other end of the scale, Uruguyan recyclers – recolectores – use a very eco-friendly form of transport.

Image

Recolector, Plaza Zabala, Montevideo

Horse-drawn transport has its enthusiasts and collectors, but most striking is the 3- and 4-wheeled, small-engine transport.

Image

Cart and carriage collection, Finca El Sosiego, site of the Punta Jazz Festival

As elsewhere, quad bikes are basic and economical, adopted and developed enthusiastically. The well-known brands appear here too.

Kawasaki quad, petrol station, Punta

Kawasaki quad, petrol station, Punta

In Colonia hire quads ply the cobbled streets; Dad drives with son up front, while Mum and daughter take the rear-facing seat, enjoying that view. Quads can also be hired at the ferry terminal from Buenos Aires.

Ready to tackle the slopes

Ready to tackle the slopes

Locals clearly find them useful.

2013-01-10 13.17.01

Quad in a mild climate, Colonia

None more so than the jobbing builder I encountered. It was hard to believe that this is road-legal, though it reveals the Uruguayan approach to regulation: when he’s stopped by the police the usual reaction is a joking “Get that thing out of the way!”

No differential on the only axle

Kick-start engine, no differential on the axle

It boasts a 1969 100 cc Honda engine, like the Honda Cub step-through bike, and does 38 kilometres per litre, 107 miles per Imperial gallon.

Single windscreen wiper, tiller-style steering

Single windscreen wiper, tiller-style steering

Metal sides, fibreglass roof repaired with gaffer tape, sliding windows, carpeted floor and doors …

Room for all the tools of the trade

Room for all the tools of the trade, including self-made ladder

He has to drive carefully in cross winds, and take corners slowly. Don’t think somehow he’ll be putting in a claim for injury on the job either …

P.S.

Here’s one I saw at a wedding reception.

1949 V8 Cadillac, Montevideo 2014

1949 V8 Cadillac, Montevideo 2014

%d bloggers like this: