On Sunday, June 16th, we were able to listen to Woody Allen at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao (Spain), along with The Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band, who are touring Spain at the moment, and who will be in Barcelona today 18/6 and in Madrid on 20/6 (read news).
Here you have the summary of the concert celebrated on Sunday, June 16th, in Bilbao, written by Asier G Senarriaga.
And Woody Allen arrived to the city, and it was not the first time, fifteen years ago he gave us a magical evening in Bilbao, but this time he came preceding the filming of his new movie in Basque Lands, with a plot located in the Donosti Zinemaldia (Film Festival), and with cinephile notes everywhere.
The people in Bilbao were delighted to greet the living myth of the cinema all day long, from Somera street to the Mercado de la Ribera, from Bailén Street to Ripa, Woody and Soon-Yi Previn toured around the old town (Casco Viejo) and attended with overflowing kindness and humility anyone who was willing to offer a good handshake, or request the immortality of a photo with this New York born screenwriter, filmmaker, and “Clarinet” player.
And the quotes are not there by coincidence, Allen is a man from the movies, a legend, but the humble Woody that plays clarinet, is not a legend. At his 84 years, his lungs no longer allow him to do what he wants. A pity? No, because of his incredible charisma, and his extraordinary band, fully cover him.
With the blaring notes of ragtime on the piano, a perpetually distracted and ineffably charming Woody Allen came on stage, and after the applause, the rest of the vibrant The Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band followed. The band was led by the Banjo, unleashed in dynamic performances of the instrument with fingers that defied the laws of physics, with a superb trombone and trumpet, with a great drummer, and a lustrous and polyglot pianist, which make the audience tremble and make their feet move to the eternal rhythm of the classics.
Allen, with not much breath and energy, but giving everything on stage, drove the audience crazy with his brave solos. The trombone supported him like the mommy supports the baby who cannot yet walk and is about to fall, but he does not. The trumpet with the mute, gave energy to the whole, while the piano made everything boil, ruled by the beat of the heart of the group, a fantastic drum player that provides the right atmosphere for everyone to shine, and ultimately, to triumph, offering delight and satisfaction in the stalls boxes, and amphitheaters.
From the Southern and Creole dixies of the postcards of New Orleans, to the dirty, decadent ragtime, but with a shining soul set in the instruments. And all this without leaving aside the classics like Manzie Johnson and Louis Armstrong, whose “Wildman Blues” was rescued for delight of the Euskalduna Palace, while the musicians smiled at each other for the tremendous reception, and they gave 110% to please and enjoy at the same time, dedicating even cinephile moments to remember.
The presence on stage of “Manhattan”, “Sweet & Lowdown”, or “Midnight in Paris” were cheered with effervescence and applause, the tribute to Sydney Bechet, sensational, with the drummer’s deep voice giving texture and nobility to the piece, while the Band took advantage of each solo to give everything; even Woody Allen dared to go with a complicated and improvised part that generated applause, and was his best contribution of the night.
But with New Orleans as the protagonist, the cinephilia surrendered with the inspiration that included the mythical arrangements of Lalo Schifrin and his ‘The Cincinnati Kid’, which raised the audience completely and levitated the musicians in an apotheosis, getting the zenith of the concert. Banjo, piano, trumpet with mute, trombone, drums, and clarinet soloist, took the rhythm, in a moment very much in the style of the ‘New Year’s Day Concert in Vienna’, with the clapping from the audience marking the rhythm, in an extraordinary symbiosis that gave the necessary extra point of greatness to the interpretation.
Even the distracted appearance and the eternal insecurity of a Woody Allen were charming, when he dared to take the microphone after the third piece and tell us why he belonged to the Band:
“I only play to hang out with some good friends in our bar in Manhattan, and the surprising thing is that people come and sit down to listen to us (said while accompanying by his legendary shoulder movement like Groucho Marx). And the most surprising thing is that they keep doing it.” A burst of laughter was the natural reaction to that occurrence.
After a review of the enchantment of New Orleans through the musical history of classics such as George Lewis, Johnny Dodds, King Oliver, Buddy Bolden and even the eternal “St. Louis Blues” by Rob García, we had some spiritual songs with the voice of Eddy or the vocal contribution of Trombone and Trumpet, going through the inclusion of the celebrated and inevitable Latin concession, with the pianist giving full proof of his facility for languages, singing the “Para Vigo Me Voy, muchachos”.
With the festive tradition of Mardi Gras and the solos of Woody to clarinet and Eddy to Banjo, and the sublime contribution of Trumpet, Trombone, Drums, and Piano, came the melodic swing-show of the classic Broadway: an “Easter Parade” in all its glory and the musicians exploding, where Woody was covered when he no longer reached the high notes, and all of them reached an ecstasy with an audience gathered and delivered to the cause.
And after an hour and a half of concert, the end arrived with two special encores, both played by Allen with his trombonist and the trumpet: the legendary “Bright Star Blues”, heartbreaking and full of strength, despite an exhausted Woody that could not close with perfection the solo parts, but who was compensated by the outstanding force of the band to the rescue. And for the end, a Dixieland, which at times seemed an extension of the “I Want to Be Like You” from “The Jungle Book” that the band ended with a superb “Finale” of glorious sound.
It goes without saying that the standing ovation was guaranteed. A few minutes in which joviality, energy, and love of music could be felt in the air, and what a better culmination can we imagine for an unforgettable evening.
See you next time that the Arts unite us,
Ta ta, A.
Article by Asier G. Senarriaga
Pictures by Gorka Oteiza