The group, New Jazz Frontiers — Orlando “Maraca“ Valle (flute), Edmar Castañeda (harp), Ed Simon (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), Daniel Freedman (drums) — came together for the first time just two days before performing a collection of original compositions (by each of the band members) for the first time at Lincoln Center last December.
Edmar Castaneda performs ‘Entre Cuerdas’ and ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.
“The Colombian plays the harp like hardly anyone else on earth. His hands, seemingly powered by two different people, produce a totally unique, symphonic fullness of sound, a rapid-fire of chords, balance of melodic figures and drive, served with euphoric Latin American rhythms, and the improvisatory freedom of a trained jazz musician…captivating virtuosity, but in no way only virtuosity for its own sake.” – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Mr. Castañeda strummed, plucked, rubbed, jabbed and pounded on his cobalt blue Llanera harp as he conjured different shaped notes, harmonic textures and steady bass rhythms from the instrument’s 34 strings. About the only thing he didn’t do was light it on fire.” – Wall St Journal
Edmar Castaneda was born in 1978, in the city of Bogotá, Colombia. Since his move to the United States in 1994, he has taken New York and the world stage by storm with his virtuosic command of the harp – revolutionizing the way audiences and critics alike consider the instrument. A master of beautifully complex timing, lush colors and dynamic spirit, Edmar has been called “almost a world unto himself” – The New York Times.
The legendary Paquito D’Rivera, Edmar’s frequent collaborator, describes him as “an enormous talent. With his versatility and enchanting charisma, he has taken his harp out of the shadows, and become one of the most original musicians in the Big Apple.”
In a recent interview, Castaneda talks about his musical formation — when at the age of seven upon first seeing a harp performance he “knew” he would be able to play the instrument; how he only received two months of instruction (only much later to be followed by formal classes in jazz trumpet); the centrality of his faith in his life and music; and the role of improvisation on his path of exploration.