With the idea of providing first class cultural activity during the quietest month in the city, the Mas i Mas group, with the help of San Miguel beer, launched a festival in 2003 that has become a classic nowadays on Barcelona's summer nightlife scene.
2003-2004: From the Liceu to the Victòria
Although the Mas i Mas group's premises-Jamboree, La Cova del Drac-Jazzroom, La Boîte Moog-hosted almost all of the nearly seventy concerts scheduled in the first edition of the festival, the event reserved a surprise for fans: The first ever jazz session was held at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. On the 1st of August 2003, a band led by the trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Bill Evans became the first jazz ensemble to have trodden the boards at this historical venue on La Rambla. Other renowned international artists within the genre, like the pianist Jacky Terrasson and singer Claudia Acuna, attended the Jamboree, making this club on the Plaça Reial one of the jazz venues with the most ambitious programme on the planet for a month. Brazilian artists such as Euclydes Mattos, singers like Deborah Carter and disc jockeys like Moscatello thrilled many Catalans who remained in town during the month of August, and the many visitors who did not want to miss any of the shows offered by the festival.
Against all odds and without any public benefits, the first edition of the San Miguel Mas i Mas Jazz Festival was a critical and commercial success with high-profile performances such as those offered by Jerry Gonzalez, Diego el Cigala and Los Piratas del Flamenco on the 1st of September 2003 at the Victoria Theatre to end the first edition of the festival. Tickets sold out for this concert well in advance.
As the first edition had been such a success, the Mas i Mas Group put on a second edition of the San Miguel Mas i Mas Jazz Festival in 2004, with a further jazz session programmed at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. This time, there were two super combos: one led by guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the pianist Brad Mehldau and the saxophonist Joshua Redman, and one with the cream of national jazz with the saxophonists Perico Sambeat and Lilbert Fortuny, the trumpeter Josep Maria Farràs and drummer Marc Ayza, among others. As for programming in clubs, the Jamboree hosted the performances by the American pianist Robert Glasper, Perico Sambeat, Llibert Fortuny and the American tenor saxophonist Antonio Hart with the pianist Carlos Mckiney, held in two memorable sessions. Artists such as the Cuban percussionist Anga, the Argentinian concertina player Marcelo Mercadante, the flamenco performers Las Migas and the disc jockey Oscar Mulero delighted the public that, once again, clamoured to buy tickets.
2005-2006: From the Palau to the Auditori
The event became established as San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival, without the label "Jazz", and the Mas i Mas group planned a third edition in 2005 with a significant development: more large-scale concerts. In 2003 and 2004 large venues had been reserved for the opening and closing concerts of the festival. In 2005, the Palau de la Musica Catalana hosted five performances by leading national and international artists .Young jazz musicians of the likes of Raynald Colom and Llibert Fortuny performed at the modernist venue along with the flamenco cuadro (troupe) Entre Amigos-composed of the guitarists Pepe Habichuela and Jose Miguel Carmona, the pianist Diego Amador and the dancer Farruco - the pop group Pastora and the Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer, who offered one of the last concerts of his life.
Despite the increase of sessions outside of the Mas i Mas venues, the Festival organizers did not give up on their initial plan to offer the majority of the sessions in clubs, one of the fundamental features that characterize the Mas i Mas group's philosophy and their festival. That way, the public could enjoy performances by Pierrot Sambeat, Donald Brown, Manuel Amaya and the Porteña Jazz Band at venues like the Jamboree, La Cova del Drac-Jazzroom, the Moog and the tabla, Los Tarantos.
With over 100 performances planned, the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival 2006 presented an ambitious line up with the incorporation of venues like the Barcelona Teatre Musical (BTM), the Teatre Romea and the Auditori as new spaces for large-scale performances as well as those offered at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. The rock diva Nina Hagen performed at the BTM leading an unusual big band, The Capital Dance Orchestra, singing her repertoire to the rhythm of jazz. The historic jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, supported by an up and coming young Esperanza Spalding, was one of the headliners of the event. Palau de la Musica offered the same stage to the trumpeter Roy Hargrove, the singer Martirio, the flamenco artists Manuel and Alba Molina and an exclusive by the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival: Mayte Martín with Omara Portuondo.
The Teatre Romea hosted the first theatrical production of the festival: La Strada by Federico Fellini, directed by Xicu Massó. As the closing event of the 2006 edition, a special tribute given to the singer Pau Riba, with a co-production with the group Enderrock entitled Dioptria 2.0, in which different artists from the country-Jordi Sabates, Albert Pla, Marc Parrot, Sisa Gerard Quintana and Santiago Auserón, accompanied by an ad-hoc band led by Llibert Fortuny reviewed the legendary album, Dioptria by Pau Riba.
2007-2009: From the Grec to Luz de Gas
After two editions without hosting any shows, the Gran Teatre del Liceu dedicated its stage to the festival once again in 2007. This time it was not jazz that took the stage at the opera house, but Son Cubano (Cuban music) offered by the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra. The Auditori hosted a tribute to Catalan Rumba for its fiftieth anniversary, by the legendary Peret. The venue on Calle Lepant was also visited by one of the most acclaimed jazz quartets of the past decade with the saxophonist Wayne Shorter, the Cuban singer Lucrecia, the Arab Orchestra of Barcelona and even Fangoria, headed by the singer of the pop group Alaska. Medium-sized venues like Luz de Gaz and Apolo took part in the festival for the first time. Concerts of two well-known Cuban orchestras: Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco and NG La Banda were held there.
Two of the most sensational aspects of the 2007 edition included the presentation of the Perico Sambeat's Flamenco Big Band in a new venue, the Teatre Grec, hitherto reserved only for the festival by the same name, and the introduction, for the first time at the festival, of a set classical music programme. The Gaudi building, La Pedrera, was the venue for "30 minutes of music" where a series of chamber music was performed with known and emerging artists on the national classical music scene.
The series of chamber music at La Pedrera was established in 2008 as one of the cornerstones of programming by the Mas i Mas Group. However, this year, the most noticeable feature of the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival was the organization of two performances per day of live music of all genres from hip-hop to classical jazz at the Teatre Grec. The historical setting of Montjuïc became a kind of musical park where fans could enjoy a drink, a small flea market and, above all, quality music sessions by varied artists such as Esclat Gospel Singers, Giulia Valle, La Candombero, Triphasic, Madee, Asstrio, Nevoa, Miquel Gil, Sanjosex, Las Migas and a long list of musicians who captivated thousands of spectators. Again, Jamboree, Moog and Tarantos welcomed interesting sessions by the saxophonist Abdu Salim's group - Freedom Jazz Quintet, the New Orleans tenor saxophonist Jesse Davis and the also American saxophonist Scott Hamilton.
The most recent edition of the festival, in 2009, established one of the most important medium-sized venues in the city as a mainstay - Luz de Gaz, a place dedicated to the most danceable form of black music. Bands like Brooklyn Funk Essentials, James Taylor Quartet, Esclat Gospel Singers, the saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis or trios like Colina-Miralta-Sambeat-and Triphasic offered a series of sessions that in many cases sold out.
The festival opened with a legendary figure of Anglo-Saxon rock, Marianne Faithfull, and concluded with an equally historic national pop-rock group: Jarabe de Palo.
As for the activity in clubs, the Jamboree programmed jazz legends like the drummer Al Foster and the saxophonist Wendel Brounious, or jazz fusion greats like the organist Brian Auger. Young international talents also features, like the pianist Yarom Herman, or local jazz names like Albert Bover, Ignasi Terraza and Kike Perdomo.
With renewed spirit and desire to find new challenges, the managers of the Mas i Mas group are already preparing what will be the first edition of the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
2010-2011: New decade, new venues, new possibilities
Faithful to its mission to win spaces for music in what is supposedly the most inactive month in the city, the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival began the 2010 decade offering original performances at new venues. In the year when the Palau de la Música Catalana began a new direction, Mas i Mas decided to incorporate a new activity into the programme for 2010: three daily sessions of acoustic music in different styles, lasting no more than 30 minutes, played by small groups in the venue’s chamber music room. Directed by the musical journalist Pere Pons, the Palau 30’ cycle brought a series of little gems of flamenco, jazz, blues, chamber music, cançó and world music to the most intimate space at the Barcelona concert hall.
The mini-festival was opened by a top-class duet: the singer Sílvia Pérez Cruz with Raül “Refree” Fernández on the guitar. Other outstanding pairs in the first Palau ’30 were the fado singer Névoa with the guitarist Vicenç Solsona; the singer Laura Simó with the historic figure Francesc Burrull on the piano; the young flamenco performers Paula Domínguez and Marta Robles; the tango musicians Marcelo Mercadante and Gustavo Battaglia; the blend between the Argentinian jazzman Horacio Fumero and the tocaor Pedro Javier González; the youngsters Celeste Alías and Marco Mezquida, and the jazzy Mozart of Llibert Fortuny and Manel Camp, who closed a successful cycle that also included two solo performances by big names on the Spanish jazz scene: Ignasi Terraza and Pepino Pascual.
A classic figure in African music, the Malian Rakia Traoré and a historic figure in Spanish pop, the Valencia Sole Giménez, opened and closed the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival ‘10 in the main hall of L’Auditori and the Palau de la Música Catalana respectively. They were the only concerts in large-capacity venues. A medium-sized venue, Luz de Gas, hosted the concerts most closely linked to the world of funk and groove: the veterans Defunkt led by trombonist Joe Bowie in one of the highlights of the season; Just 4 Fun and Flavio Rodríguez from Barcelona, and, as a notable exception, the gospel of the British singer Lurine Cato and Ramon Escalé’s Barcelona Gospel Messengers. Just as rhythmic and danceable, or even more so, was the techno music heard at the Moog, with DJs like Hardfloor, DMX Krew, Mike Dred and Omar León.
At the other extreme we might place the performances in the now established 30 Classical Minutes at Caixa Catalunya's Pedrera. The Romantic piano of Jean-François Dichamp and Alfredo Armero, Kalina Macuta and Daniel Blanch performing Schubert; the guitarist Jorge Arango; the soprano Maria Escobar with the pianist Alan Branch; her fellow soprano Beatriz Jiménez Marconi; the Arriaga Trio and the Nexus Piano Duo are some of the classical music artists making up the bill for 2010, when the Jamboree programmed artists of the calibre of Esperanza Spalding, with Leo Genovese and Francisco Mela, Víctor Mendoza and the Barcelona Percussion Project, Ronald Baker, Marc Ayza, Albert Bover, Lucrecia, Josep María Farràs, Jaume Vilaseca, Eva Cortés, Xavier Dotras and Five In Orbit.
For its flamenco programme, the Tarantos chose groups led by Lluís Avedaño and Pedro Córdoba.
As a highlight of the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival ‘10, we should mention its original closing concert in the middle of the Plaça Reial, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jamboree. On 30 August 2010, Alfons Carrascosa’s Big Acoustic Band performed on a podium at one end of the 18th-century square, together with the Barcelona Blues Big Band, and a WTF! Jam Session was improvised.
Under 2010’s spirit of renewal, the 2011 festival maintained the successful Palau ‘30 cycle, opened by a top-class Spanish pop-rock duet: the singer Santiago Auserón and the guitarist Joan Vinyals. The Grau-Carles-Nomoto castanet trio, the fado singer Névoa with guitarist Vicenç Solsona and the Fumero-González pairing were back, and the manouche performers Biel Ballester and Leo Hipaucha, tango musicians Cristina Villalonga and Gustavo Battaglia, the Soulimane-Bout-Zerualdi trio, the singer Ana Rossi with the pianist Elisabet Raspall, and the ethnic duo Mû with Sasha Agranov, were incorporated, together with others. At Palau ‘30, there was also an outstanding solo performance by the saxophonist Llibert Fortuny and a closure concert starring the cantaora Ginesa Ortega.
A true legend of funk, Maceo Parker, offered a three-hour show to the audience who packed the Palau de la Música Catalana in the most rhythmic opening to the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival ever remembered. Rhythmic – and also loud – was one of the new features of the 2011 festival – the Moog Rock Club mini-cycle with the indie scene bands NudoZurdo, James McCain Band and Joan Colomo + L’Esperit! As for dance music, the Jamboree hosted the DJs R de Rumba, DJ Wilor, DJ Twelve and DJ Fonk, incorporating the Jamboree’s disco sessions into the bill for the event.
Classical music, represented in the 30 Minutes of Classical Music at CatalunyaCaixa’s La Pedrera, had performers like the pianists Marija Ivanovic, Akiko Nomoto, Katia Michel, Jean-François Dichamp, Cecilio Tieles and Enrique Bernaldo de Quirós, the guitarist Alí Arango, Albéniz Quartet, the Granados Duo, the Arriaga Trio and the singers Beatriz Jiménez, Ricardo Velásquez, Ana G. Schwedhelm and Elías Benito Arranz. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the death of the composer Joan Manén, the San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival ’11 decided to pay tribute to him at the opening of the La Pedrera cycle and, above all, with the performance of the work Nova Catalonia, on 11 September 2011 at the Palau de la Música Catalana.
Once again, the Jamboree offered a de luxe programme of jazz, with stars like the trumpeter Tom Harrell; the saxophonist Kenny Garrett; the Jeff Ballard-Miguel Zenón-Lionel Loueke trio; Dave Samuels & Barcelona Percussion Project and the British band Get the Blessing, as well as respected Spanish artists like Fèlix Rossy — with Peter Bernstein; Horacio Fumero & Albert Bover; the Giulia Valle Libera Quintet; Toni Solà; David Pastor; Gonzalo del Val; Dani Nel•lo; Sergi Sirvent and Susana Sheiman & the Ignasi Terraza Trio. As for jazz, highlights included a concert paying tribute to Miles Davis coproduced with Jaç magazine, with an ad-hoc big band conducted by Joan Chamorro, and figures like Andrea Motis, Llibert Fortuny, Matthew Simon, Jordi Bonell and the only Spanish musician to play with Miles Davis: Carles Benavent. The recording of the concert, entitled Sketches of Catalonia, was given to readers of Jaç magazine in CD format.
The flamenco of the group Candelaria and Karime Amaya & Sara Flores could be heard at the Tarantos, in a festival that was officially closed at the Palau de la Música Catalana with an unprecedented gospel session from the British London Community Gospel Choir with the Jamboree Big Latin Band, conducted by a fellow promoter of gospel, Ramon Escalé.