Malabo, Equitorial Guinea: Joel Press Jazz Trio Makes an Independence Day Splash at the American Embassy
July 4, 2015

Joel Press, James Chrillo, and Chris Flory performing in Malabo, July 2015.

James Chirillo, Joel Press, and Chris Flory performing in Malabo, July 2015.

Truly Accomplished Jazz Performers: Embassy Malabo was extremely fortunate in attracting three world-class jazz musicians on short notice, based on Pol/Econ Officer’s friendship with saxophonist Joel Press, the trio’s octogenarian leader who regularly performs at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Mr. Press has recorded four albums on Cadence Jazz, speaking the language of swing-based, post-World War II jazz in a singular fashion. He chose guitarists James Chirillo and Chris Flory to accompany him. Chirillo, originally from Bellevue, Washington, spent three years with the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point. A well-known jazz guitarist, he regularly works with The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has performed with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and can be heard on soundtracks of several movies, including two of Woody Allen’s. Chris Flory, an excellent swing-based guitarist from New York, worked with Benny Goodman for six years, and has appeared on many Concord records, playing with well-known jazz saxophonist Scott Hamilton. In 1992, he toured China with Judy Carmichael in a U.S. government-sponsored tour.

Joel Press, James Chirillo, and Chris Flory performing in Malabo

A Diverse Array of Events: The musicians played four concerts and hosted a workshop over the course of a week. The first performance was at the official Embassy Independence Day reception on July 2. Live music is very rare in Malabo and most receptions use pre-recorded music. Guests were delighted to be greeted by the music of the Jazz Trio, with many people commenting on how wonderful it was and how much they enjoyed listening to and getting to meet jazz musicians from the United States. One ambassador even knew the work of one of the musicians, and expressed his sincere gratitude for the performance. A second Independence Day performance took place at the Embassy’s community event for American citizens held at the Chief of Mission Residence on July 5. Once again, guests noted what a pleasure it was to hear top-flight jazz musicians. The Spanish DCM introduced the Jazz Trio at the third event, a performance in the large concert hall at the Spanish Cultural Center. The fourth performance was a concert held in the piano lounge of the Hilton Hotel Malabo. The venue was ideal and the event well-attended with the lounge full of an engaged and excited audience. The final event arranged by the Embassy was a workshop for local musicians, who were eager to speak to and play with the Jazz Trio.  Equatoguinean musicians brought their instruments, questions and lots of enthusiasm to the event. Two of the best-known performers in Equatorial Guinea, who also have an international following, attended and performed with the band.  It was a rare treat to have acclaimed artists collaborate with such talented local musicians. After the two-hour event, the Jazz Trio and local musicians said that they wished they had time for a follow-on session. The Jazz Trio exchanged contact information with many of the attendees and promised to keep in touch.






contact Joel Press at: (617) 527-5227