Edmar Castañeda was nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category “Best Latin Jazz Album” with his album Family.
In fall 2021, Castañeda’s performance will be heard in Disney’s latest film, Encanto (Release date: November 24, 2021), which features original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Castañeda acts on the soundtrack and serves as a music consultant on Encanto.
Upon arriving in the United States in 1994, Colombian-born Edmar Castañeda made a name for himself as the preeminent jazz harp virtuoso. Castañeda brings forth a brilliance that beautifully merges the jazz tradition with a diverse set of styles and genres while bringing unbridled attention to a somewhat unfamiliar instrument: the harp. Singlehandedly, Castañeda has cemented the harp’s place in jazz with innovative technique and heartfelt creativity from a wealth of formidable collaborations with music titans such as Wynton Marsalis, Bela Fleck, John Scofield, Ricki Lee Jones, Hiromi, Pedrito Martinez, Marcus Miller, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ivan Lins, The Yellowjackets, Paco De Lucia, and Paquito D’Rivera.
In the same breath as the Yo-Yo Ma’s of the world, Castañeda fearlessly stuns audiences, musicians, and critics alike with his incredible talents as a player and composer. NPR’s “Fresh Air” touts, “…his technique is the real astonishment. Castañeda juggles lead, rhythm and bass lines, using a variety of hard and soft string attacks to keep those voices distinct — all without giving up the groove…His amazing technique…raises the bar for every harpist.” The New York Times notes, “…Castaneda… engage[s] modern jazz in ways that honor…cultural origins, and [he has] the capacity to astonish by virtue of [his] fingerstyle technique.” Moses Sumney highlights his “5 Favorite NPR “Tiny Desk Concerts” and says, “My brain cracked open when I first saw this. Some classical instruments are so ingrained in our heads for sounding one way; Edmar restructures what we know of harp, defiantly expanding the bounds of the instrument.”
Castañeda follows up seven acclaimed albums (Cuarto de Colores; Entre Cuerdas; Double Portion; Live at the Jazz Standard; Live In Montreal; Harp vs. Harp; Family ) with his latest recording project, Viento Sur, with a nine-person ensemble of acclaimed global musicians from Switzerland, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Chile, USA, Argentina, and Colombia. An array of compositions on Viento Sur are commissioned by American Chamber Music from the “New Jazz Works Grant.”
Castañeda’s renowned albums as a bandleader are interchanged with awe-inspiring symphonic and big-band works likes Wynton Marsalis Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Clássica de Espinho and the São Paulo Jazz Symphony Orchestra, and chamber pieces for the Israel Camerata Jerusalem and the Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia.
He was ushered into the jazz community by Paquito D’Rivera, who recognized Castañeda’s passion and took the young harpist under his wing. D’Rivera has called him “an enormous talent… [Edmar] has the versatility and the enchanting charisma of a musician who has taken his harp out of the shadow to become one of the most original musicians from the Big Apple.”
“The Colombian plays the harp like hardly anyone else on earth. His hands, seemingly powered by two different people, produce a totally unique, symphonic fullness of sound, a rapid-fire of chords, balance of melodic figures and drive, served with euphoric Latin American rhythms, and the improvisatory freedom of a trained jazz musician…captivating virtuosity, but in no way only virtuosity for its own sake,” says Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.