Havana: March 2017 – Jazz is alive and thriving in Havana

Havana: March 2017 – Jazz is alive and thriving in Havana

We went down to Havana in March to see the Fiesta del Tambor (The Drum Festival.)

We figured a drum festival in Havana had to be amazing, but nothing prepared us for the superabundance of talent and the sheer amount of music offered.

Since Jazz on the Tube is a jazz web site, we’re going to start with the jazz we encountered, but follow the thread to the end to get a more complete picture of this Treasure Island of music, both in and outside the festival.

At the Riviera Hotel, Havana
March 2017

Oliver Valdes – leader, drummer
Alejandro Delgado – trumpet
Tony Rodriquez – piano
Jorge Reyes – bass
Marcus Santos – congas

Did you recognize the tune?

It’s “Chan Chan” a 1987 composition by Compay Segundo featured in the movie “The Buena Vista Social Club.”

This is a great example of the alchemy jazz can accomplish, taking a well known melody and finding deeper magic in it. (Think John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things.”)

At the Riviera Hotel
March 2017

Delvis Ponce Jove – leader, alto saxophone
Carlos Vietia – saxophone, trumpet
Michael Herrera – saxophone
Miguel Garcia – piano
Victor Cambel – piano
Edwardo Silveira – congas
Karel Kindelan – drums

Delvis Ponce Jove talks with a mystery man. Click here to discover who he is

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

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Havana: March 2017 – Gilberto Valdés Zequeira

Havana: March 2017 – Gilberto Valdés Zequeira

Gilberto Valdés is eight-eight years old this year. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet him and spend some time talking jazz.

Jazz drummer, singer, band leader, producer and educator. Gilberto’s life tells the story of post-war jazz in the United States and Cuba and bridges Cuba’s pre and post-Revolution jazz history.

Havana-born, as a five year old he was introduced to American jazz by his young uncle, Raul Zequeira, who was just nine years older than him. During his childhood Gilberto accompanied his uncle to many parties and social gatherings where American jazz and pop music was au courant.

Later as a young man, Gilberto made frequent trips to New York City where he stayed with his step-father, Humberto Gelabert, a former sideman with Benny Carter and the bandleader of his own Cuban orchestra. Humberto also owned a popular barbershop in East Harlem.

During these trips, Gilberto went to the Savoy Ballroom, Minton’s (where he sat in one night), Birdland, and the Palladium Ballroom.

What he learned, he brought back home and among other things helped pioneer bebop on the island.

In 1957, while his vocal quartet “The Cavaliers” was performing at San Souci, the preeminent nightclub in Havana, he met Roy Haynes who at the time was the drummer in Sarah Vaugh’s Trio. Haynes gave Gilberto a set of drum sticks as an encouragement to take up the drums, which he did.

He spent the first half of the sixties in Europe where he reconnected with his Uncle Raul who had moved to Paris after World War II and had his own band.

When Gilberto returned to Cuba he became the country’s jazz ambassador hosting Dizzy Gillespie’s historic 1977 visit, bringing the Cuban super group Irakere to the U.S. and representing Cuban jazz musicians internationally.

As the last picture in this series shows, he’s a beloved figure in Havana’s jazz scene where he’s been an educator and mentor to countless young jazz musicians.

Along with pianist and bandleader Bellita, he played a key role in saving Cuba’s most important jazz club El Zorra y La Cuarva from being turned into a pizzeria!

Photos

Gilberto’s step-father Humberto Gelabert (on the left) was
proprietor of a barbershop in East Harlem

Gilberto’s step-father and his Cuban jazz orchestra
He’s on the far left with a trombone

Gilberto’s step-father talking with Stan Kenton

Gilberto’s band brought modern North American jazz to Cuba.
That’s Gilberto on drums on the upper right

Gilberto started as a professional singer in high school specializing in Harmonical Vocal Quartet music and continued with singing groups his entire career. Gilberto is on the far right.

Gilberto on drum kit

A television pioneer in Cuba. Gilberto on the far right

A publicity shot from the White Elephant in Paris in the 1960s.
Gilberto on timbales

Gilberto on drums with Bebe Valdés in Sweden in the 1960s

Sammy Davis Jr. on congas and Gilberto on timbales

Gilberto (with tie) brought Irakere to New York City and the world.
Chucho Valdés on the left. The President of CBS’s Record Division Bruce Lundwald on the upper right. Conga player Oscar Valdés (no relation) on the lower right

In front of Casa de la Cultura de Plaza, the birthplace of the Havana Jazz Festival, Gilberto with youngest son of Jorge Varona, who played with Irakere during Irakere’s visit to US

Gilberto with special friends – March 2017.
Up front, to the left of the man in yellow, Waldo Nelson Cárdenas
of the Havana jazz club El Zorra y La Cuerva

To find out who these special friends are, click here.

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

P.S. Our unique programming is made possible by help from people like you. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts here: Support Jazz on the Tube
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Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
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Steve Coleman and M-Base.com

Interview


Download the mp3 here

For further study:

M-Base.com

More information about Steve Coleman is available at M-Base.com including a detailed biography, upcoming gigs and projects, music (which you can download for free), scores, essays and interviews.

Steve’s essay on Charlie Parker is must reading.

M-Base.net

You can register here for free at m-base.net and watch the trailer for the film “Elements of One” that Steve and I talked about.

The complete film is also available for online streaming from the site for $18.00 and is well worth it.

Mongo Mangue, the piece Steve and I discussed in the interview that features Charlie Parker playing with Machito and his Afro-Cubans

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

P.S. Our unique programming is made possible by help from people like you. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts here: Support Jazz on the Tube
Thanks.

Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
Click here for details

 

Sacred music spaces in Western Cuba

Sacred music spaces in Western Cuba

In January, March, and November of 2016, musician, musicologist, and author of “Cuba and its Music” Ned Sublette took groups to Cuba for intensive ten day in depth music tours.

It was billed as a road trip to sacred spaces in Western Cuba.

Attendees included musicians, producers, musicologists, scholars and others interested in Cuba’s culture, music and history.

I was on the March 2016 trip.

It’s possible that someone could have arranged an equivalent trip, but I don’t know how.

Drawing on his own three decades plus of experience and study in Cuba and working in collaboration with the Cuban music wizard-goddess Cary Diez, Ned arranged at least two different performances for us every day – in Havana, in Matanzas and many places west.

For those who didn’t make one of the trips, Ned’s produced a program with highlights for his long term colleagues at Afropop Worldwide.

The program features Congo, Abakuá, Yoruba, and Arará music of Cuba, as well as rumba, recorded live by Los Güiros de San Cristóbal (Regla); Ta Makuende Yaya (Quiebra Hacha); Grupo Tambores Yuka (Viñales); Afro Cuba de Matanzas, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, and Rumba Timba (Matanzas); Omo Layé and Iyawaré Ochún (Colón); and Ojundegara (Jovellanos).

Amazingly, what appears in this hour long program is only the tip of the iceberg.

For example, there’s no mention of our visits to smoking hot jazz clubs or the magical evening we spent with the danzon orchestra El Piquete Tipico Cubano.

You’d be hard pressed to find all this music in the bin of even the most enlightened record shop in the U.S. or Cuba, let alone hear it live in the intimate settings Ned arranged.

Enjoy!

If you’re interested in Cuba and its music and want to learn more, consider signing up for my low volume list (no more than one email per week) of educational emails.

Each one comes with a little (but sometimes a lot) of commentary and a lot of great music.

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

P.S. Our unique programming is made possible by help from people like you. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts here: Support Jazz on the Tube
Thanks.

Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
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Direct flights to Havana coming to an airport near you

Direct flights to Havana coming to an airport near you

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The date is July 7, 2016.

History is being made.

For the first time in decades. the US Department of Transportation is permitting direct consumer flights to Havana.

The government of Cuba has not yet given the approvals on its end and the start dates are not even on the drawing board yet, but this is a very important step for making Cuba easily accessible to music lovers.

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

P.S. Our unique programming is made possible by help from people like you. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts here: Support Jazz on the Tube
Thanks.

Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
Click here for details

 

US flights to Cuba: It’s on!

US flights to Cuba: It’s on!

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It’s kind of hard to get somewhere where there are no scheduled flights.

Charter flights to Cuba have existed for a while, but as anyone who has used them knows, the process is kind of a pain and expensive ($500 for the hour long flight from Miami.)

Now six US airlines have been approved by the Department of Transportation for up to 155 round trip flights per week. They’ll fly from five U.S. cities to nine cities in Cuba other than Havana.

The airlines are: American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest and Sun Country.

US airports involved: Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Cuban airports involved: Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.

(The richest prize – routes to Havana – is expected to be announced this later summer.)

Service may start as early as this fall and early winter, just in time for winter tourist season.

The Cuban government still has to sign off on the details of the plan, but the general principle of direct flights from the US has already been agreed to by the two governments.

Cuba here we come!

If you’re interested in Cuba and music and jazz in Cuba make sure you sign up for Ken’s low volume Cuba list. Use this link or the box below: KensCubaList.com

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

P.S. Our unique programming is made possible by help from people like you. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts here: Support Jazz on the Tube
Thanks.

Go to Cuba with Jazz on the Tube as your guide:
Click here for details

 

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