• Mostra Woody Allen turns his film 50, 'Golpe de suerte', into a very murky and happy celebration of himself and his career (****)

"I'm like a tennis player who faces Federer and Nadal," warns Woody Allen in his memoir Apropos of Nothing (Alliance), about his well-known passion for jazz put into practice with a clarinet wielded like a soap gun. "I'm sorry to say, but I don't have what it takes: ear, tone, rhythm, feeling. And yet, I've played in public in clubs and concert halls, in opera houses all over Europe, in packed auditoriums in America. I've played in street parades in New Orleans and also in bars, at the Jazz Heritage festival and at Preservation Hall, and all because I can take advantage of my film career, "he adds, acknowledging that his audience pays to see him, rather than to hear him.

And he still remembers that the comedian Dotson Rader asked him: "Is it that you have no shame?" With unusual gravity, he replied: "Between my love of music and my limitations as a performer, if I want to play I cannot afford to be ashamed." Thus, after passing through the Blue Note in Milan, where the public described his bowling as "embarrassing" and causing desertions at the Villars-Les-Dombes Festival (France), this 87-year-old "scoundrel", who has been trying all his life with the clarinet, filled the Tivoli Theater in Barcelona, with capacity for more than 1,600 spectators, for the inauguration of the 55th edition of the now called Voll-Damm Jazz Festival. The organization was forced to add one more night, also with practically all tickets sold.

The same happened on Sunday night, at the Mooby Aribau Cinema -with seats for 1200 spectators-, where he presented his filmGolpe de suerte, one of the best of his last stage, shot in Paris and premiered at the Venice Film Festival, before a feverish audience that filled the cinema and cheered him when he entered to present, Very briefly, the movie, as when the end credits fell. Applause and more applause.

Although the filmmaker-clarinetist-amateur has been involved in the controversy since his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, accused him of having abused her at age seven, there was no trace of any protest either inside or outside the rooms where he presented the film or led his New Orleans Jazz Band, with which he offered a recital of Dixieland jazz classics.

He barely spoke. In the Tivoli he only announced what was proposed, the mentioned recital of old New Orleans classics, which have historically been played "in churches as in brothels", and invited the audience to sit down and enjoy, because they were going to do "everything possible to entertain them". About an hour and a half later, including the encore by popular acclaim, he retired thanking "the dream" of having been able to play in Barcelona for such a grateful audience. He gave time to play fifteen standards among which sounded Para Vigo me voy, by Ernesto Lecuona, sung by the pianist in approximate Spanish, like other classics of the style of Wild Man Blues, which gave title to Barbara Kopple's documentary, about her European tour of 1996.

While it is clear that his musical skills are far from the virtuosity of titans such as saxophonist Joshua Redman or legendary bassist Ron Carter, who are also part of the programming of this edition of the festival, Allen knew how to lead the band previously commanded by Eddy Davis, deceased victim of Covid. Although, at times, his solos could recall, involuntarily, his first comic monologues, or the honking of an old Ford T, Woody Allen knew how to take his solid band, giving instructions for the bajini, by the unexpected paths of an authentic jam session of primitive jazz, particularly appreciated in the homeland of La vella Dixieland, which has been celebrating the genre for more than 40 years.

Allen appeared on stage in his usual look, a denim shirt with many washes on his back, beige dockers, and sneakers with striped socks. He blew with visible effort as he played, resting, like a circumspect soldier in the trench with his clarinet on his shoulder when not, occasionally applauding his horn section mates, Simon Wettenhall (trumpet) and Jerry Zigmont (trombone) who, like pianist Conal Fowkes, also sang. They were accompanied by Brian Nalepka (double bass), Kevin Dorn (drums) and Josh Dunn (banjo), all white.

The show, which lasted about an hour and a half, including the inevitable encore by popular acclaim, was most entertaining, despite the bad tongues, including that of Allen himself. The conclusion of the outgoing audience was far from too demanding: "You can tell that he has a good time."

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