PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Nora Jorba (London Catalan Festival at Pizza Express Jazz Club 8-10 June)

"Fearless bassist and talented composer"
One of the four Catalan bandleaders: bassist Giulia Valle
Photo credit: Carles Palacio

Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street will be hosting the first London Catalan Festival in early June. It features four bands led by women. The festival is the brain-child of London-based Catalan NORA JORBA. She explains the background. Interview by Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: For people who don’t know you please tell us some more. What first brought you to London and what’s your job now.

Nora Jorba: I’m from Barcelona. I studied classical music for over eight years, including piano and solfeggio. Then I studied film production at ESCAC University in Terrassa, moving to London in June 2011.

In London I studied jazz performance at Middlesex University, graduating with a BA Hons in Jazz in 2016. During those years I crossed paths with amazing people who inspired me in performing but also very much encouraged me to get more involved in the British jazz scene on the production side.

Since May 2016 I’ve been working for Pizza Express Live as Music Logistics Manager, running the finances for the five music venues. But because of the encouragement of my colleagues, especially Joseph Paice, I got the opportunity to book some shows as well founding my own agency, Saurus Management.

Nora Jorba
LJN: And you are a proud Catalan and want to help promote Catalan culture ?

NJ: Yes! As you say, I’m a very proud Catalan. I’ve been away from home for seven years now and I miss Barcelona and Catalonia, the people, the food, the music. But I’m not complaining. I love being in London. So many things happening in just one city! Being able to share my culture and help promote artist from Catalonia in an international capital like London is a dream come true.

LJN: So you approached the Institut Ramon Llull...?

NJ: Well, it actually went the other way. Pizza Express offered me a long weekend to put on a run of shows and they gave me total freedom for it. I could pick any theme and, after a bit of thinking, I decided to put on a little Catalan Festival at Dean St Jazz Club. At the same time, a friend of mine who works for Institut Ramon Llull in London told me they wanted to focus on Catalan jazz in London. They were looking for a venue that would host a series of shows during the year. When I mentioned that I wanted to put on a festival, they liked the idea and we joined forces to make the festival happen! It’s an honour to have them supporting it. The Institut Ramon Llull is a public body founded with the purpose of promoting Catalan language studies at universities abroad, the translation of literature and thought written in Catalan, and Catalan cultural production in other areas like theatre, film, circus, dance, music, the visual arts, design and architecture.

 LJN: And they suggested a theme of women artists for the festival – what was the reasoning?

NJ: Yes, that’s correct. In one of the meetings I had with Maria Lladó, from Institut Ramon Llull, she suggested focussing the attention on female artists for the first edition of the festival. Right after that meeting, I went to Palau Robert, an exhibition centre in Barcelona that was showing a very interesting project: D’Ones. That means Waves, but without the apostrophe, it means women. The exhibition focuses in the Evolution and Revolution of Women in Music. It was very inspiring to see so many names of female musicians who have made a difference in music, but that we don’t know well. I was determined to use the exposure of the festival to celebrate a new generation of female talents. Just by chance, this happened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK.

LJN: How many concerts?

NJ: This year’s festival has five concerts by four artists over three days.

Sara Pi
Publicity Photo
LJN: Who appears first? Tell us about the artists because they may be unfamiliar names.

NJ: Kicking off the festival on Friday 8 June we have Sara Pi. I heard Sara for first time years ago, when I was still living in Barcelona. Her music was pretty different to what I had heard from any Catalan artist. Now being in London I’ve heard a few other artists navigating similar styles, but at that point, Sara’s music really had an impact on me. I feel lucky to be able to bring her to London and be part of this event. Sara and her producer Erico Moreira have a great musical and personal partnership. The fusion between R&B, Neo-soul and Brazilian influence is a fantastic combination and I thought it would make a great first show for the festival.

On Saturday 9 June we have two shows. At lunchtime we have Eva Fernandez and in the evening we have Giulia Valle.

Eva Fernandez is a young vocalist and sax player who, along with Andrea Motis, studied with Joan Chamorro and at Taller de Musics in Barcelona. I heard Eva a while ago, when surfing on the internet watching videos of Joan’s Sant Andreu Big Band. A few months ago, in one of my chats with Taller de Musics, they told me she was launching a new album in 2018, much more personal than her previous work. In trio formation (with Josep Munar on guitar and Enric Fuster on drums), she plays and sings not only jazz but also original compositions inspired by the poems of Jorge Cortazar amongst other writers. It’s a beautiful and musical approach to timeless poetry.

Giulia Valle is one of the most renowned musicians in the jazz scene in Catalonia. She was born in Italy, but grew up in Catalonia. She is a fearless bassist and talented composer. She has lead several projects, going from contemporary jazz, jazz mixed with electronics, and now with her powerful trio, featuring Marco Mezquida on piano and David Xirgu on drums. When I first heard her music I was struck by her compositions and the synergy between the three of them. This will definitely be a highlight of the festival.

Returning for the third time to Pizza Express Dean Street:
Trumpeter/ vocalist Andrea Motis
Publicity photo
And last but not least, we have Andrea Motis and Joan Chamorro Quintet performing two shows on Sunday 10 June. Andrea is returning for the third time to Dean Street. We are very excited to have her back. I’ve been following Andrea’s work for a few years now. Despite her young age, she has developed impressive skills and with her talent she is now recognized as one of the biggest names in Catalan jazz. In her band she performs with Joan Chamorro on bass, Ignasi Terraza on piano, Josep Traver on guitar and Esteve Pi on drums. This will be a great finale for the first edition of the London Catalan Festival at PizzaExpress Jazz Club.

I’m really excited and I cannot wait! (pp)

LINK: London Catalan Festival Bookings
Saurus Management on Instagram

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