Harlem Nights

Savouring a seedier side to Barcelona, last night, I headed out in search of live music promised by The Harlem Jazz Club. An appassionato of jazz and blues, I seek it out in every city I visit. I find it provides me with a measuring stick to better understand if I am being treated to a tourist show during my sojourn or the real thing enchelada.

You see jazz music, to be truly good, requires a certain culture of art, a freedom of expression and a unique sense of personality or what you get is live ‘covers’ (a faux pas in these circles). It is true that most sessions begin with roots from one of the greats (Miles, Thelonius, Prof. Paul, etc) but ultimately the sound must be fresh and improvised or it cannot be called jazz. Improv requires more than technical skill and artistry…it has to be born from a deep soul, nurtured in suffering and hope, brought to fruit through the mingling of like spirits into pure sound.

The Born district is where one finds this club. A maze of dead end streets and dark alleys lined with rastafarri very politely offering the wares to the tourists in as many languages as they have drugs. Like all things in this town, however, they are as kind and funny as they are foreboding. Lost down one too many turns, a six foot 3 Jamaican walked me through the directions I would need to get to the club despite my refusal to sample his offerings.

The club does not dissappoint any more than Barcleona does. Dark, smokey, most of the patrons on their feet, the combo on stage was bleendling steel slide guitar, standup base and class¡cal Catalan accoustic in remakes of Lousiana creole. The set was sublime, tainted only by the overpowering smell of drum cigarettes rolled by hand. The evening went late but the music never tired as more and more musicians arrived to fill out the group.

A must visit in Barcelona.