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domingo, 28 de marzo de 2010



Call it finesse and wonderful hospitality…these are the great attributes displayed by the HSBC personnel at the extraordinary three days Jazz Festival (running March 25 and 27, and May 12) which they have organized in the Nokia Theatre and the BB King Blues Club in Manhattan.
As a Premier Preferred Client, we were ushered by our Relationship Manager, Janett Arce, who invited us to the incomparable event and very graciously introduced us to her HSBC family; amongst them, the Vice-President of Premier Market of HSBC Bank USA, Mr. John Wong: a lively and extremely polite gentleman.
From the moment we were greeted at the entrance and escorted to the VIP lunge, the evening was full of surprises: scrumptious hors de oeuvres, a very well provided bar station in which the most popular drink was the “HSBCini”(martini named after the bank), and an array of sweet treats for the Intermezzo. Personalities like businesswoman and Trump heiress, Ivanka Trump, her husband, and other top executives were among the guests.
The thrill of the night was having the opportunity to meet the musicians who were performing on this first night of the festival: The Spyro Gyra band and Jonathan Butler and his band. An honor like this is rare and greatly appreciated.
One cannot converse with a musician if one has not seen him in action and felt his “vibes”. You just don’t have to “see” the vibes, but you have to feel them!
Spyro Gyra, a band that surfaced originally in Buffalo, New York, in 1976, caused an enormous impact among the audience knowledgeable in jazz; a genre heavily influenced by R&B, funk rock and pop music styles. What the cartels call “smooth jaz”, goes far beyond its title, to deliver music which is powerful, emotional and passionate. The instruments talk through their interpreters.
Jay Beckenstein’s (the founder of the band) saxophone melodies, give one the “goose bumps” as he delivers his solos. Scott Ambush fuses with his bass cords in such a way, that you cannot distinguish between his almost inaudible intonation and the sound of the instrument. Tom Schuman, this child prodigy turned into a giant master of the keyboard, blends incredibly with his instrument. Julio Fernandez’s guitar cords provoke an explosion of passion. His concentration and his facial expression deliver to the audience his intense communion with his music and the clamor of his spirit. Bonny B, on the drums, is a great composer and writer, like the rest of the members of the band, delivered a tremendous performance; as powerful as that of the others…It was so powerful, that for his final act, he threw his drumsticks to the audience and gave me a temporary horn. But it was alright because I got the signed stick and a backstage visit with him .

For Scott their music signifies freedom from the street cliques of classical music. Through their instruments they converse with each other and express their spirits; they feel it very deep inside. For Tom, their interpretations are always different, because they respond to the audience’s emotions and demands. They take a simple tune and turn it into something more harmonically and rhythmically complex.
Their music very well represents the evolution of this genre, which originated in the early 1900’s in New York, New Orleans, Saint Louis, Kansas City and Chicago; in those poor joints where the rigid divisions of races, regions and national boundaries were broken, and gave way to freedom, creativity and finally, an American identity at home and abroad. Spyro Gyra condenses the epitome of this jazz sensitivity.
Up to this day, they have been nominated for 14 Grammys and sold more than 11 million records, and they have an average of 80 performances per year.
By the way, for those interested in the origin of the band name, it was named after spirogyra, a green algae about which Beckenstein had written a college biology paper, years before. When urged for a band name, by the owner of a Buffalo Club for which he was working, Jay remembered the paper, and said: spirogyra. The guy misspelled it Spyro Gyra, and so it stayed!
The second part of the show was interpreted by the superb Jonathan Butler and his band. This incredible songwriter, guitarist and singer, captivated the audience with his well known compositions.
Originally from the poor and ravaged areas of Cape Town, Africa, Butler started singing publicly when he was seven years old, in South African towns, and participates in traveling variety shows, which ultimately lead to his discovery by Olive Caulder from Jive Records. And so, he signed with them. His first single became the first song by a black artist, to be played by white radio stations in South Africa.
As part of his compromise, he moved to England, and in time, got Grammy nominations for some of his songs.
Butler is a master in front of the audience. Through his songs he recalls his roots and his vocation as a gospel pastor. The music flows through him and his emotions grow wild and passionate. His intense spiritual life is bestowed upon the audience; and soon one is part of his joyful rendering of God, of mankind and of the universe which encloses us.
Butler cries and makes the audience cry; he involves his band and the spectators into a “soul fusion”.
What a night of surprises! Thank you HSBC for this opportunity and for the wonderful gifts of the signed CD’s of the protagonists of this self –expressive music.

Lucy Valdivieso New York, March 26, 2010
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