Music Articles

Music Articles

By: D. Espinosa 

Festival Jazz Plaza 2015 finished on Sunday in Havana. For the 31st time the Cuban capital city welcomed one of the most important jazz events of the country. Its program included performances by the most prominent artists of the genre in the island, as well as many other luxury guests from the international scene.

These days of jazz made in Cuba were part of an edition consecrated to the musical genres that influence jazz. According to the event’s organizers the participation of prestigious personalities has favored the importance given to the existence of a Cuban or Latin-American interpretation style. In this line, besides national performances such as those by Magig Sax Quatet, Maracujazz, Cauce, and the personal projects of Alejandro Falcón, Michel Herrera and Ruy López-Nussa the festival was joined by musicians coming from the United States, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Holland, Spain, Canada, and El Salvador to add diversity to the galas, but first and foremost, talent and virtuosity.

Jazz Plaza began on December 17th with an exclusive concert by maestro Bobby Carcassés with group Cauce. The opening night united important figures of the music in the island like Carlos Rojas, and orchestra director Zenaida Romeu, leader of Camerata Romeu.

But the jazz party didn’t stop, and for three days Havana was witness to a succession of four-hour long performances in Theater Mella, Hotel Sevilla and other cultural institutions. Performers included young trombonist Eduardo Sandoval –who played creations from his latest album Caminos Abiertos, a tribute to one of the greats of the trombone in the island: Juan Pablo Torre–, and Erick Joh with his group, and singer Estrella Acosta –who played a repertoire of Cuban and Brazilian music, respectively.

One of the most important elements of this edition of Jazz Plaza was the huge presence of American musicians. It seems as if after 17D artists had all started to make their bags to travel to the island to show the Cuban public the reasons of their worldwide fame. In the capital city’s stages instruments played to the rhythm of trombonist Steve Turre, percussionist Robbie Amin, band Mongorama, and famous saxophonist Kenny G.

Cuban journalist Michel Hernández from Granma put it this way: “Rock and roll legends have all decided to play in Cuba at the same time.” And I agree. Among the invited artists one could count American rockers Billy Gibbons and Joseph Dusty Hill from band ZZ Top, a group with more than 40 years of history. The bearded musicians excelled at Fábrica de Arte Cubano and gave concerts that classify as ones of the most memorable moments of the event. Gibbson premiered songs from his latest solo album Perfectamundo, a tribute to African-Cuban jazz.

It happened the same way with the boys from The Preservation Hall Band, from New Orleans. It was surreal to attend a small stage (like Theater Mella’s), with free entrance, to enjoy a show of legendary American jazz players such as Charlie Gabriel (sax), Clint Maedgen (sax), Mark Braud (trumpet), Rickie Monie (piano), Joseph Lastie Jr. (drums) and the versatile Ben Jaffe and Ronell Johnson, all of them part of the Hall Band. Together with Ernán López Nussa they offered a performance that the media considered “a sort of musical metaphor of the rapprochement of the two countries.”

Besides its excellent concerts, Jazz Plaza included colloquiums, book presentations, panels, lectures and debates on that musical genre.


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