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Concert Review: Cristina Pato Quartet at the Chan Centre

Cristina Pato Quartet, April 11, 2019

The Vancouver Sun

by Stuart Derdeyn

Galician gaita master Cristina Pato proved that there is most certainly a place for bagpipe in jazz.

There is no tradition of the gaita — the Galician bagpipe — being played in jazz. At least there wasn’t one until award-winning piper Cristina Pato began her journey of discovery into the world of improvised music with the instrument.

A member of Yo-Yo Ma’s groundbreaking Silk Road Ensemble, the New York-based musician was turned onto the potential of bagpipe jazz when her talents were enlisted for the 2010 Miles Davis: Miles Español project. As part of the ensemble, Pato was asked to perform a segment that was based on the traditional Galician muñuiera, a folk dance in 6/8 time. It was a revelation for the folklorist, who also holds degrees in classical piano and composition.

Joining forces with Texas bassist  Edward Perez, Brazilian drummer Mauricio Zottarelli and French accordionist Julien Labro, she formed the Cristina Pato Quartet to explore the rhythmic and compositional legacies of the Spanish/American/Latin American musical traditions. As captured on the 2015 recording Latina, the band converges upon a suite of music composed by Perez that combines popular folkloric 6/8 metered musical styles with exploratory jazz.

Imagine a bagpiper playing with the passion and emotion of John Coltrane on sax and you’ve got this incredible band and its leader in focus. This concert was nothing short of a revelation.

Opening with a muñuiera to set the tone, the band wasted no time in showing its incredible depth and chops. Throughout the set, which included the Latina Suite, Peruvian folk standard Maria Lento and Miles Davis’ Blue In Green, the band members all took lengthy solos that showcased their exceptional chops as well as telepathic dialogue with one another.

Pato took time to outline the journey that they would take the audience on, and proved why she is so in demand as an educator, author and thinker besides being a killer player. Her lecture is almost as good as her playing. Almost.

Blazing on the bagpipes, she not only soared and roared, but proved that “lead guitar face” can be adapted to any instrument. She danced, rocked back and forth, strained to get the notes and brought intense and total emotional conviction to her music. Whether on bagpipe, piano, vocals or a tour de force tambourine tune, Pato was never less than amazing.

And the music just grooved so deeply, with a vital force that only the best jazz bands can deliver. Joyous, expansive and exciting, the material from the album took on whole new dimensions. This is most certainly a band you need to see live to appreciate as it just isn’t captured to the same degree on meticulously rendered albums.

Perez could groove like a monster, Zottarelli is a drummer whose solos just sing with invention and Labro is almost on equal footing with the bandleader in what he can do on the accordion.

Classically trained, the Canadian permanent resident should be on every folk and jazz festival programmer’s list of artists to book. Both he and Pato move around their respective instruments with the kind of muscle memory technique that non-players can only marvel at. The speed, the subtlety and nuance that were part of every moment in this exceptional show left the crowd awestruck.

It appeared to have the same effect on the performers. The smiles all around after each solo, the egging on during the group dynamics, it all said that these are artists who absolutely love this project. One can only look forward to what the group offers up next.

Chan Centre concert series curator and co-managing director Joyce Hinton first told Postmedia about seeing Pato in an interview a number of years ago. The idea that a bagpiper could be this exciting did seem exceptional. Even Pato herself said the same, thanking everyone in attendance for taking the chance to check out something new.

She need not have done so. This was one of the best performances of 2019. Here is hoping she comes back again soon and another show in the acoustic wonder that is the Chan Centre would be just fine.

The next show in this year’s top notch season is Portuguese fado superstar Mariza on April 17 and then the season closes out with sitar master Anoushka Shankar on April 27. Tickets at the Chan Centre website.

Fri Apr 12, 2019