Since arriving in the United States in 1994, Colombian-born harp virtuoso Edmar Castaneda has forged his own distinctive path in music. He brings not only an unfamiliar instrument but a wholly original voice to jazz, branching out into a world of different styles and genres. His wide-ranging career has been remarkable for discovering a brilliant role for the harp in jazz, then continuing to innovate and spark creativity from a wealth of formidable collaborations. His latest CD, Live in Montreal, features the latest in an ever-growing history of thrilling partnerships, an utterly unique duo with the electrifying Japanese pianist Hiromi.
Born in 1978 in the city of Bogotá, Colombia, Castaneda took up the harp as a teenager to play the folkloric music of his homeland. He discovered jazz shortly after moving to New York City to join his father in 1994 and was immediately drawn to the freedom and sophistication of the music. With no real precedent for the harp in the jazz world, Castaneda studied trumpet by day while trying out his newfound knowledge on the harp at a restaurant gig by night.
He was ushered into the jazz community by Paquito D’Rivera, who recognized Castaneda’s passion and took the young harpist under his wing. D’Rivera has called him “an enormous talent… [Edmar] has the versatility and the enchanting charisma of a musician who has taken his harp out of the shadow to become one of the most original musicians from the Big Apple.”
Since then, Castaneda has taken New York and the world stage by storm with the sheer force of his virtuosic command of the harp, revolutionizing the way audiences and critics alike consider an instrument commonly relegated to the “unusual category”. He’s been acclaimed as a master at realizing beautiful complexities of time, while skillfully drawing out lush colors and dynamic spirit and crafting almost unbelievable feats of cross-rhythms, layered with chordal nuances rivaling the most celebrated flamenco guitarist’s efforts.
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