Calgary Bluesfest (2009)
In a country with a reputation for great music, Cuban guitarist Elmer Ferrer is one of his country’s biggest and brightest young musical stars. Since graduating from Cuba’s National Arts School in 1992, Elmer, 34, has established a solid career writing, arranging, producing, and performing both live and in studio. He has recorded and tour the world with many of the most prestigious cuban musicians, and played to crowds in excess of 90 000.
With his first CD as a soloist, Elmer Ferrer raised as Winner of the Best New Album Award at the 2003 Cubadisco International Music Fair, and was also nominated for Best Jazz Album of the Year, among some of the big names of the cuban jazz scene. It was after this prizing when he formed the EFB. So, since 2004, Cuba´s most sought after electric guitarist has been leading his own project: the Elmer Ferrer Band (EFB), “known for wowing the crowds with blues rock sprinkled liberally with Cuban jazz” (The Ottawa Citizen, 2007).
The best single word to describe the experience at an Elmer Ferrer Band concert is “intense”. An EFB show is an energetic fusion of jazz, blues and rock played the Cuban way, a full display of top level musicianship and performing, where high doses of improvisation are found. One song is never the same with them, and there is no EFB show without encore: the audience is always left wanting more.
The Elmer Ferrer Band´s presence on stage is celebrated applauded by audiences and critics, not just because of the performance of the EFB original repertoire, but also by their high energy/unique re-interpretation of some all-time world famous Rock, Blues and Jazz songs. That happens to be the case of Miles Davis´ "So what" and Lennon-McCartney´s "Come Together", which EFB version was voted "Best Interpretation" at the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival. Elmer is also known for being the kind of musician "to expect the unexpected": His habilities -and passion- to improvise on any imaginable music genre or flow, has been the responsible of a number of memorables nationals and internationals jams, sometimes scheduled to happen, other times just born at the second.
The Elmer Ferrer Band had its International debut at the 2005 Cisco System Ottawa Bluesfest, opening concert for the American star Kid Rock. “Fango Dance” CD was released at the event, and resulted number 5 in units sold. Since then, "Cuban Elmer Ferrer has toured the world with his band, thrilling crowds with his blazing guitar riffs of jazz, blues and rock" (Ottawa´s Metronews, 2007), and the phrase “return by popular demand” has been heard more than once.
Elmer Ferrer alternates his work with the EFB with the many invitations he receives to perform live on special concerts or to record as guest artist on CDs by many of the most prestigious cuban musicians and bands. He is one of the most active studio musicians in his country, and has participated in more than 60 productions as guest acoustic or electric guitarist, a number that grows almost daily. Some of the names he often collaborates with, include the world-wide recognized Silvio Rodríguez, Chucho Valdés, Juan Formell y Los Van Van and Orlando Valle "Maraca".
A LITTLE BACKGROUND: Elmer Ferrer comes from the small city of Sancti Spíritus where he was born to a musical mother who always supported her children’s musical bent (Elmer’s brother and sister are also professional musicians). At age 12, he entered the town’s Elementary School of Music to study classical guitar, and 4 years later he was accepted into the prestigious National School of Arts in Havana (ENA) to continue classical guitar studies with Cuba’s best music teachers.
It was during his first year in Havana that he saw the 1986 classic blues guitar movie “Crossroads”, in which a talented classical guitar student studying at The Julliard School wants to become a bluesman. The movie opened the eyes of the sixteen-year-old classical guitarist Elmer Ferrer to a new world of possibilities, and from that moment on, all he wanted to do was play jazz and blues on an electric guitar.
The problem was, that back then, there was no school in Cuba for electric guitar, an instrument more traditionally used for rock - a music genre not popular in Cuba at the time. So, Elmer continued to study classical guitar at school, and while studying Bach, Leo Brower and Heitor Villalobos as part of the school's official program, he devoted every free moment to learn the electric guitar by himself, listening to cassettes of guitarists John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Joe Satriani, Robben Ford, Steve Vai and others, that were shared between students and teachers.
After eight years of formal classical guitar training, Elmer graduated at age 20. But even before graduating he was already performing as a professional musician with prestigious artists. A year after his graduation, ENA opened the “Department of Electric Guitar” (the first in Cuba) and master guitarist Elmer Ferrer was invited to be on the faculty.
With that background, is easy to understand why whenever critics describe Elmer´s guitar skills, one and again terms like "versatile", "eclectic", "flexible", and "hard to label musician" are used: the Cuban folk and traditional music through the veins and from his upbringing in Sancti Spiritus; classical music from the academic training; and jazz and blues, his passion, from the countless hours of study. All combined, inform his style.