Festival Preview: Canarias Jazz & Más International Festival

Written by | Festivals, News

Europe is well known within the jazz community for it’s rich selection of jazz festivals ranging from the smal local festival through to the larger festivals featuring a broad program across multiple stages and often extending up to a week. One of the more unique festivals on the circuit through is the Canarias Jazz & Más International Festival that takes place in each July in the Spanish autonomous community of the Canary Islands.

What makes this festival somewhat unique is the the program extends for almost the entire month of July, providing nightly concerts on almost all of the Islands in the archipelago.

Perhaps first a little background, as mentioned above the Canary Islands are a Spanish autonomous community and archipelago situated in the Atlantic Ocean and just 100 kilometers of the coast of the African country of Morocco. The islands have a population of 2.2 million people, making them the most populous special territory of the European Union and due to it’s beaches, natural attractions and subtropical climate welcomes more than 2 million visitors per year.

This coming edition of the festival will mark the 32nd edition of the festival thereby making it one of the longest running festivals on the European circuit. Festival director Miguel Ramírez, who has been at the helm since the festivals inception, explained in a recent interview that the original concept of the festival was to create an event with great music for the local population of the islands and it’s this concept that still remains the driving force behind the festival today. That said, you can’t deny that a festival of this caliber in such a tourist location is without doubt a major draw card for international guests, and this was confirmed by Miguel “Yes, we have many tourists now coming to the festival, we have good beach’s, great food but above all great music, and this is what it’s all about.”

As I previously mentioned, the Canarias Jazz & Más Festival has a long history going back 32 years. Speaking about the origins of the festival, Miguel explained before this festival there were a number of other smaler festivals and attempts however these didn’t last. So, when we started this festival we wanted above all to create continuity and I think after 32 years you can say that we have done this. We started by bringing the music to the people and not trying to bring the people to the music. We did this by organizing concerts in different locations that were easily accessible for the public. After this we started to bring the concerts also to the major venues on Gran Canaria, and Tenerife. But we always kept the concept of bringing the music to the people, also in outdoor locations in the more tourist spots. But the main thing is that wherever we put on a concert we never compromise on the music.”

Just to give you an idea as to the atmosphere that Miguel and his team have created at the festival, below is a gallery of photo’s from previous editions of the festival. These photo’s, shot by Nacho Gonzalez Oramas and Sabrina Ceballos and Luz Sosa, so a selection of both behind the scenes and on stage images.


The Coming Edition: 

This year has a very impressive line-up with a great mix of local and international artists performing. Possibly one of the main attractions on the program this year is the Metropole Orchestra, conducted by Miho Hazama and with special guest Kandace Springs. With 4 Grammys and 22 nominations to it’s credit the Metropole Orkest needs little introduction and is easily one of the Europe’s most prestigious large ensembles. Performing the the Metropole this year at the festival is Nashville native Kandace Springs. Springs made quite a splash on the scene with the release of her 2016 Blue Note debut “Soul Eyes” however it was the 2020 album “The Women Who Raised Me”, also on Blue Note, that elevated her career to the level on one of the most popular jazz vocalists on the scene. The combination with the Metropole Orchestra is bound to be a “must see” at this years festival. There are two concerts, the first on the 15th at the Teatro Cuyas on Gran Canaria with the second concert on the 16th of July at the “Auditiorio de Tenerife”.

The Metropole Orchestra | Photo by Reinout Bos

Another Drawcard this year, and indeed festival opener on the 30th of June at the “Auditiorio de Tenerife”, is Kurt Elling together with Charlie Hunter. On his latest album SuperBlue (Edition Records), Elling took a new direction re-connecting with the fantastic jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, on whose album Songs from the Analog Playground he also contributed more than twenty years ago. Together with Hunter and the rhythm section of Butcher Brown, Elling produced and album just dripping in funk and groove. One thing is certain: when two contemporary jazz greats join forces, a place at the front of the room is not an unnecessary luxury! Because of the new band sound, Kurt and Charlie don’t play in theaters, but tour halls with standing audiences – after they first turned the North Sea Jazz festival upside down last summer! This is not the only appearance at the festival the band will make as the following evening on the 1st od July the band will also perform at the Jameos del Agua on the island of Lanzarote.

Kurt Elling with Charlie Hunter | photo by Keshia Eugene

With the Canary Islands archipelago made up currently of 8 islands, It’s unique that the festival presents concerts of each of these islands. Miguel explained “We started in Gran Canaria and then added Tenerife. Then step by step we included the other islands and it’s still like this today.” While Miguel was explaining this I couldn’t help but think this must be a logistical nightmare. Miguel replied “Yeah, It’s crazy, we have to move artists between islands sometimes by boat other times by plane, we do have production equipment in each location but there’s still the challenge of making sure the bacl line is in the right place. There are times when we have concerts running on up to 5 islands at the same time. But we have a great team and it always ends up working. But you also need to take into account that it’s the pre production that is critical, we work on this almost full time for months and months.”

Jazzmeia Horn | Photo by Drew Bordeaux

The program includes a number of concerts Concerts outside of Tenerife and Gran Canaria including Brazilian saxophonist Lucas Santana together with Drumer Sven Rosier on La Palma on July 15th. Jazzmeia Horn won the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and since then has carved out a strong place on the international scene. This can be evidenced by the more than 60k views to date that Fiona Ross’s 2022 interview with Jazzmia here on Jazz In Europe has notched up. Jazzmeia Horn can be enjoyed live on the 17th of July on the island of Fuerteventura and earlier on the 5th of July on Gran Canaria at the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus.

On the 23rd of July at the Playa Santiago on the island of La Gomera and the evening before, the 22nd on Tenerife the Daniel Garcia Trio will perform. Daniel García has become one of the most original and influential voices of the new generation of Spanish Jazz. Garcia graduated from Berkley Collage of Music after studing with Danilo Pérez and since that time has become one of the most in demand and solid trios in European Jazz. With his last trio album for ACT Music, “Vía de la Plata”, the group reaches the highest peaks of compositional and creative expression making this will be a not to miss performance.

I was interested to know what the reason was for running the festival for a complete month, was this logistical? Miguel stated quite firmly “No, not at all, in fact I think it would be easier to do the whole thing in just 2 weeks. I’ve been to many other festivals where the schedule is completly full, take the North Sea Festival for example, there you can see so many concerts in a short time that it’s almost overload. We started with a different idea, where an island and there’s nothing better to going out on a summers night, having dinner, catching a great concert and then going out for drinks. There was a time when I thought about doing more concerts on one day but, no, I realised this is one of the strenths of this festival. It’s all about enjoyment. There is also another advantage, at other festivals, as an artist you are often limited toa set of 45 to 50 minutes, that’s not the case here, if you want to play an hour or 90 minutes then no problem.”

Some of the other highlights of the festival are a performance by Richard Bona with Alfredo Rodriguez on the 8th of July at the Plaza Salytien on Tenerife as well as the evening before at the Explanada del Faro de Maspalomas on Gran Canaria. Richard Bona is one of the most accomplished international bassists, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists. With his unique sound and his vocal gift, he continually represents his African origins. Bona’s music addresses the traditions, culture, beauty and problems of the continent. His purpose and the way he connects with his audience have made him a staple name in world music, jazz and Afropop.

The 2017 winner of the Eurovision Song Contest for Portugal, Salvador Sobral will present for the firdt time material from his latest album, and give a preview of what will be his new album, Timbre , set for release at the end of September of this year.

Manu Katché

Manu Katché will also perform both on Tenerife at the Auditorio de Tenerife on July the 13th and on Gran Canaria the evening before at the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus. Manu Katché is one of the best drummers of our time. Possessing a unique style, it is because of his distinctive blend of elegance and power that, time and time again, musicians and producers have turned to his services. As Peter Gabriel ‘s favorite drummer , Katché had a huge influence on his biggest hit, Sledgehammer and, more recently, as the focal point of Gabriel’s live band on his ‘Back to Front’ world tour. Katché’s long collaboration with Sting is also a key aspect of his career, and again his distinctive style lent itself to Sting’s biggest hit, Englishman in New York . At the festival Katché will perform his unique brand of jazz/Fusion with his own band “The ScOpe”

This is just a short selection of highlights you can enjoy at the coming edition of the Canarias Jazz & Más International Festival and I urge you to check out the full program that can be downloaded here or viewed on the Festivals website. When looking at the entire program I noticed that there was indeed a great mix of international and Spanish artists and I asked Miguel, who is also incharge of programing if this was a conscious strategy. Once again the answer was an emphatic no. “It’s very simple, the programing concept is just good music. Foe me it’s about improvisation and creativiatry. After all what is jazz? who know’s, it’s not that easy anymore but I know it when I hear it.”

And that quote is the perfct place to wrap up this priview of the Canarias Jazz & Más International Festival. The festival kicks off on June 30th and runs through the month of July closing on the 23rd with Las Palmas De Gran Canaria – Fábrica La Isleta with Javier Infante & José Alberto.

For the full program and more details you visit the festival website here or click here to download the program.

Last modified: July 19, 2023