The harp may be one of the last instruments that comes to mind when you think of jazz, but that didn't seem to discourage Edmar Castañeda. The Colombian harpist takes an instrument best known for its angelic qualities and makes it swing.
Castañeda was born in Colombia, where he learned to play the harp the way the local cowboys play it on the highland plains. He found jazz when he came to New York and was determined to learn to play it on the harp. He enrolled in conservatory to learn trumpet, because there was no major in jazz harp. “Just to have the feeling of playing with a big band and to improvise,” Castañeda said on WNYC's Soundcheck.
What stands out about Castañeda's playing is the way he is capable of doing so much at once. “I use my left hand as a bass player and my right as a piano,” said Castañeda. He walks bass, plays chords, plucks out melodies, and takes solos all at the same time. The title track off his recent album, Entre Cuerdas, mixes influences from Latin jazz, samba, and his native joropo music.