The best of Cuenca night life: The Jazz Society Café is a magnet for music lovers

Jul 25, 2019

By Margaret Winter

The Jazz Society Café, now in its seventh year, serves up world-class live jazz four nights a week in the heart of the historic center.

Jim Gala at the Jazz Society Cafe.

The club is a magnet for jazz lovers from Cuenca and for tourists from around the world.  Fans come back again and again, in couples, groups or solo, to enjoy inspired music in a cozy, romantic setting, over drinks and dinner or a carafe of wine.

The club’s founder and manager, New Yorker James Gala, is an outstanding jazz pianist, with a shimmering, radiant technique, great emotional range, and a style evocative of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.

The house band, the James Gala Trio, is a classic combination of piano, bass, and drums. The makeup of the group alters from week to week, with a changing cast of top-flight jazz musicians, many of them veterans of the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra and the Cuenca Conservatory of Music.

Last week, Gala on piano was joined by the brilliant Freyler Lopez on electric bass and by virtuoso percussionist Freddy Abad on drums. The group’s improvisations were inspired:  crackling with energy and wit, they alternated mischievous, sparkling, up-tempo standards with poignant romantic ballads.

At times the trio becomes a quartet or quintet. Guest artists frequently sit in with the band: vocalists, horn payers, percussionists, some local and some visiting from jazz venues in Latin America, North America, Europe, and beyond. The Jazz Society’s special charm is its unpretentious, welcoming way of drawing together international jazz lovers and performers to enjoy dazzling music in a magical setting.

The Jazz Society Café operates Wednesdays through Saturdays, on the second floor of La Viña restaurant, at the corner of Luis Cordero and Juan Jaramillo. Food and drink service begins at 6:30; music begins at 7:30. Cover charge $10.

For more information, contact jazzsocietyofecuador@gmail.com.

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