The Edmar Castaneda Quartet with Special Guest Grégoire Maret
The Edmar Castaneda Quartet
Edmar Castaneda considers playing the harp his calling – and a sacred calling at that. “I was born to play the harp,” the Colombian-born bandleader says. “It is a gift from God and like every gift from God, it has a purpose. The purpose of my music is to worship Him and bring his presence and unconditional love to people.”
Born in 1978 in the city of Bogotá, Castaneda began playing the harp as a teenager, performing the folkloric music of his homeland. He discovered jazz upon moving to New York City in 1994, and in the years since he’s established himself as an unmistakably original voice, combining Colombian styles and jazz and collaborating with a wide roster of musicians, including Rickie Lee Jones, Sting, Paco de Lucía, guitarist John Scofield, Brazilian jazz artist Ivan Lins, and many more. His most recent recording, Live in Montreal – a duet album with Japanese pianist Hiromi – demonstrates his expressive range on the harp. Moving from dense clusters of chords to dazzling melodic figures, he bridges the gap between formal training he received under Paquito D’Rivera and improvisation. Indeed, Castaneda crosses fluidly between classical and jazz spaces: he’s written symphonic works for Orquestra Clássica de Espinho and the São Paulo Jazz Symphony Orchestra, and chamber pieces for the Israel Camerata Jerusalem and the Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia.
Born in 1975 in Geneva, Switzerland, to a Harlem-born African-American mother and jazz-playing Swiss father, Maret took up the harmonica as a teenager. After graduating from the prestigious Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique de Genève, Maret took off to New York City to study at the New School University's Jazz Department.
In 2003, Maret was the subject of director Frédéric Baillif’s documentary Sideman, and a year later he joined the Pat Metheny Group, appearing on the band’s 2005 album The Way Up, which won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Playing a chromatic harmonica – a distinctive instrument heard on recordings by Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder – Maret developed a unique musical voice, and after working with Metheny for a number of years, he brought that voice to Herbie Hancock’s band. He co-led the jazz trio Gaïa with pianist Federico Gonzales Peña and drummer Gene Lake, and has worked with an incredible roster of players, including George Benson, Youssou N’Dour, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Cassandra Wilson, David Sanborn, Elton John, Sting, and many more.
In 2012, Maret released his first album as a bandleader, an eponymously titled effort, featuring collaborations with vocalist Cassandra Wilson and the late Thielemans. In 2016, he followed it up with Wanted, in which he explored the stylistic possibilities of his instrument. “Who is the greatest harmonica player in the world?” jazz critic Ted Gioia wondered in The Daily Beast, suggesting that following the passing of Thielemans, the “genre-crossing harmonica hotshot” Maret offers the only real answer.