Edmar Castaneda has been making waves in the music industry for over two decades. Known for his signature blend of jazz infused with Latin American rhythms and rapid-fire notes, Castaneda performs on his llanera harp around the world. His latest album, Harp vs. Harp, is a collaboration with Grégoire Maret on harmonica and features two impressive guest artists.
You just released your sixth album, Harp vs. Harp, with harmonica player Grégoire Maret. I’d love to know more about the inspiration behind this unique instrumental pairing.
I meet Grégoire playing in the Monaco Jazz Festival with Marcus Miller; we were both guests of Marcus. I remember that when we did our soundcheck, we played together, and it sounded so interesting that we knew we had to collaborate, as we both live in New York. I invited Grégoire to play with my trio until we decide to collaborate as a duo. We play some original music and some standards with two special guest, Béla Fleck on banjo and vocalist Andrea Tierra.
What was it like to collaborate with Béla Fleck?
It was really fun to record with Béla on two tracks in the album. He [plays on]one of my tunes titled “No Fear” and “Santa Morena,“ a waltz from Brazil by Jacob do Bandolim. I met Bela before I recorded this album, and I always wanted to play with him and see what would happen with banjo and harp. The mix of these two plucky instruments works great, plus the beautiful lines and colors that Grégoire adds really make a unique combination that works.
This album was released by ACT, a jazz label based in Europe, and they use artwork for the cover of CDs. This artwork is by Uwe Kowski.
I know you’re about to go on tour through Europe. Do you travel with your harp?
It’s really a blessing to be able to travel the world with my harp! For many years, I worked on how to travel light and safe for the instrument. I finally got an amazing flight case made of carbon fiber that’s very strong and light. I worked on this project for [many]years until finally I got the right one, and I’m very happy with it!
I read that you played the trumpet in college, even though your first love was the harp. How did your trumpet studies influence your work as a harpist?
I owe a lot to the trumpet because I had the opportunity to learn the language of jazz and to experience playing with different ensembles, like big bands and trios, and that gave me the skills to improvise. Now I teach my 8-year-old son Zamir to play trumpet and my daughter Zeudi is 10 and plays the harp!
That’s amazing! Anything else you’d like to share with Harp Column readers?
Harp is one of the coolest instrument to play! There are so many things that you can do with the harp. I am very grateful to God for giving me this gift of playing the harp.