These words have been on my mind for some time now, and I finally have a quiet moment to bring them to life. An invitation came my way earlier this year, from Barcelona, to come play music in Europe. I went, I sang, and I am so happy that I did.
The invitation was to sing with Àrid, a unique trio from Catalunya that combines jazz with a Americana/folk rock style in an unconventional way, through their original compositions, and their thoughtfully chosen arrangements of songs by artists like Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Patti Page, and Led Zeppelin. Àrid is Jordi Mestres (bass, acoustic guitar), Ricard Parera (drums, percussion), and Guillem Callejón (guitar, pedal steel, banjo). The majority of the set was in English, with the exception of one Àrid original, “Nuit,” which I sang in Catalan, (which I’d love to do much more often!).
During my stay in Spain we played a series of performances at locations that ranged from Very Magical to Extremely & Insanely Magical. Imagine for a moment, a convergence of narrow zigzagging cobblestone streets that lead to a rather un-squarish square, and the edges of that square are made up of a castle, a stone church, and a hole in the wall family restaurant with some of the best food you’ve tasted in your short time on this planet. That, is where we played our first concert.
The breathtaking climax of my stay in Spain was singing on top of dreamy La Pedrera in the heart of Barcelona. La Pedrera was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, completed in 1910, and is now an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. Think modernist Dr. Seuss with a pinch of Escher, and also, you’re dreaming. The concert setting itself was unbelievably charming, the audience perched around the curvy rooftop (no chairs), clutching glasses of Cava, enjoying the evening breeze and sounds of pedal steel.
I am astounded at both the level of musicality of Àrid, their compositions, and the ease with which we came together to make music in a very short time. Not only are Ricard, Guillem, and Jordi extremely talented and sensitive musicians, their hospitality knows no bounds. I found myself in the midst of vast kindness, delicious Catalan cuisine and tradition, and simply wonderful human beings. Somehow I was even lucky enough to warrant a trip up through the Costa Brava.
I share these experiences not to boast, but to express my deep gratitude at being able to take this trip, become closer to Catalan culture, spend time with these amazing people, and make good music. The story doesn’t end here, there is talk of bringing Àrid to the United States in 2016, and I hope we’ll be able to share some of this magic with our American friends.
P.S. Thank you gentlemen, for inviting me to sing with you, it was an honor, and I can’t wait for our next performance.