INTERVIEW: Joan Mas, director of Mas i Mas Festival (Barcelona 31 July – 31 August 2018)

Plaza Real, which will host an outdoor stage
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mas i Mas fills Barcelona with music for the whole month of the month of August. It is also combining for the first time with the Global Music Foundation’s summer school for a series of concerts and other events. Sebastian spoke to festival director Joan Mas, who is also the guiding spirit behind the Jamboree Jazz Club:

LondonJazz News: Joan What is your story and how did you become director of the Mas i Mas Festival?

Joan Mas: I started when I was 18 years old as a wedding, banquet and cruise musician. At the age of 27 (1985) I opened my first business, Mas i Mas Bar, with great success. After opening other businesses I opened the music venue, La Boîte. Two years later came the Jamboree, then the Tarantos and finally the Cova do Drac. We did four performances a day, 365 days a year. Sixteen years ago we organised the first festival sponsored by San Miguel, performing in clubs and large venues such as the Liceu Theatre, the Palau de la Música and this year for the first time in the Teatro Coliseum. This year we have programmed about 70 shows in total (this includes jazz, flamenco and techno performances).

LJN: What is the best place in Barcelona for you?

JM: Obviously the Jamboree, because there is no other club next to the Ramblas, the best street in the world.

LJN: We hear that you will be using some beautiful places in Barcelona – what will happen in the Plaza Real and are there also events centered in Jamboree and Tarantos – which are in the same building?

JM: Yes, each day at 18.30h we have an outdoor stage in Plaza Real dedicated to song. The vocal students participating, in GMF Barcelona ’18, along with some special surprise guests, will have an opportunity to sing to hundreds of people.

Tarantos is on top of the Jamboree. The late great trumpet player Art Farmer said that, back in the ’60s, he remembered that, when he was playing downstairs in the Jamboree, between tunes you could hear the Flamenco dancers through the floor.

LJN: And Louis Armstrong once played at the Jamboree?

JM: No, Louis Armstrong didn’t play at the Jamboree. Ella Fitzgerald did get on stage at the Jamboree because in 1966, the sixth anniversary of the Jamboree, she organised a concert at the Palau de la Música; Duke Ellington with Ella Fitzgerald. At the end of the Palau concert, she decided to go to the Jamboree and she sang.

LJN: And some other great ones?

JM: Yes, lots including Tete Montoliu, Bill Coleman, Kenny Drew, Chet Baker, Ponny Poindexter, Art Farmer, Lou Bennet, Stephane Grappelli, Kenny Clarke, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon. Elvin Jones, Gregory Porter, Brad Mehldau, Jerry Bergonzi, The Fringe, Mina Agossi, Freedom Jazz Quintet, Brian Auger, Jesse Davis, Dick Oats, Yarom Herman, Nasheet Waits, Christian Scott, Al Foster, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Jordi Rossy, Perico Sambeat, and many more.

LJN: What is special about the Jamboree environment?

JM: The walls are made of stone from an old convent of nuns. At the beginning of the 18th century, the current Royal Square was built on top of it. It was the first jazz club in Spain and the musicians always say that it is a magical place where they love to perform and where you can feel the history.

LJN: What kind of club is Tarantos?

JM: It is the oldest flamenco tablao that remains open in Barcelona. Great names of flamenco have performed here, among them, in 1962 Antonio Gades, Maruja Garrido and in the last period Duquende, Niña Pastori, and Diego el Cigala. Currently there are four sets per night with flamenco singing, guitar and dance.

Joan Mas
Picture supplied

LJN: This year Mas i Mas has a connection with the Global Music Foundation?

JM: Yes, the first week of the festival the Jamboree will feature seven outstanding performances by GMF artists. For several years we have been looking at the project and preparing it with Stephen Keogh and at last we are able to do it.

LJN: And you are also having events on the beach – where? Are they free entry?

JM: Yes, we have activities at the CNAB, in front of Barcelona’s largest beach, with lots of charm. In the mornings there will be tai-chi, samba, singing etc. At noon students and teachers can eat in front of the sea on a wonderful terrace.

LJN: And there will be a massive samba and a choir. When and where exactly is that?

JM: On August 7, GMF will close with a choir and samba concert at the CNAB, in a magnificent venue next to the club’s swimming pools and in front of the sea.

LJN: I understand that you expected to use El Grec’s outdoor amphitheater but you cannot?

JM: Yes, we won a contest to manage it for three years. It is a beautiful open-air theatre with 2,100 seats and a classical Greco-Roman theatre structure. Last year was the first year we managed it and it went well. We did 15 performances during the Festival. But this year, the political party that was in charge of culture for the city has changed and now it has been cancelled.

LJN: What are your events at the Teatro Coliseo?

JM: We have six concerts: the first one is an American band, the Lucky Chops. This is followed by an English group, Incognito. Thirdly we will have Electro Deluxe, a French group. The fourth group is a Catalan group led by Andrea Motis. The fifth place, a very well-known Spanish singer, Santiago Auserón, and to close the festival we will have a Dutch singer from Suriname, Clarence Bekker, who will stage a big party with a Barcelona gospel choir of 150 singers.

LJN: What is the concert that is selling best at this time?

JM: The first is Santiago Auserón and the second is Incognito

LJN: Do you feel like presenting some of the Catalan musicians? Who in particular?

JM: We are very excited to present Andrea Motis, Joan Chamorro and Albert Bover. (pp)

LINK: Mas i Mas Festival website

Categories: Features/Interviews

1 reply »

  1. The Jamboree is really worth going to when in Barcelona – nice atmosphere and as it's a basement club, a good place to cool down after the heat of the day. Booker Ervin, who lived in the city for some time, tipped his hat to the club by writing “Groovin' at the Jamboree” (on his 1965 album The Trance) and Chet Baker liked it, saying , “Barcelona was magnificent in December of ‘63. After Paris, it almost looked like a tropical city. I closed a deal to work for a month at a basement club that had been offering jazz music for some time.” (See article in February 2018 issue of Jazzwise)

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