Edmar Castaneda's new album may be titled Double Portion (Arpa Y Vaz Records, Street Date April 17th, 2012), but don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting more of this sumptuous meal after you've tasted it. Castaneda, who has virtually reinvented the role of the harp in jazz singlehandedly within the past several years, explores fertile new territory on his latest release, fusing the sounds of his native Colombia with the energy of his adopted home of New York City. Alternating on Double Portion between solo performances and duets with world-class pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, mandolin virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda and rising star alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, Castaneda melds Colombian folk, traditional classical harp, experimental sounds and urban jazz grooves in a unique way that impelled The New York Times to characterize him as almost a world unto himself."
Castaneda, on Double Portion, expands his instrument's range into areas that it's simply never wandered before. On the album's title track, he and Rubalcaba dance around one another in unexpectedly spiky, jutting odd-metered rhythmic patterns, each peeling out quirky, sometimes startling melodies that often verge on the avant-garde. A Harp in New York," with Zenón, captures the bustle of the Big Apple, along with the city's sophistication, charm and über-hip demeanor. Poem of Strings" glimmers and glistens, Castaneda and de Holanda engaging in a multi-stringed dialogue that flaunts its luster proudly. And of course on the solo tracks, Castaneda's virtuosity and emotional investment in the wondrous sounds of the harp are displayed in all their glory.
For Edmar Castaneda, the possibilities of the harp extend far beyond the limits traditionally foist upon it. Although relatively rare in jazz, he saw no reason, even in his teens when he began applying what he'd learned in his trumpet lessons to the harp, why the instrument couldn't be at home within the genre he'd fallen in love with while playing in a big band. Castaneda moved to the United States from Colombia at 16 and has been revolutionizing the very notion of jazz harp ever since. Edmar has a wider musical vision than most of his colleagues playing such a limited instrument," Cuban multireedist Paquito D'Rivera told JazzTimes magazine, while All Music Guide, reviewing Castaneda's Entre Cuerdas album in 2009, tipped off jazz fans that he was an artist to be paying close attention to in the years ahead."
Today, with the release of Double Portion, on which nine of the 10 tracks are original compositions, Edmar Castaneda makes good on that prediction. A master at realizing beautiful complexities of time, while skillfully drawing out lush colors and dynamic spirit, Castaneda projects what the New York Times has called the picture of effervescent profusion." AllAboutJazz.com, meanwhile, praised Castaneda's live performance as inspired, extemporaneous musical communication" and added that fans long to experience his music multiple times. Double Portion, it seems, might be only an appetizer.