New Orleans and Havana have a long history together.

For a while (1762 to 1802) when Louisiana (“Luisiana” in Spanish) was a Spanish holding, New Orleans was administered by Havana and the Spanish left behind many beautiful buildings.

Much of the French Quarter was actually built by the Cubans after a catastrophic fire destroyed most of the old city in 1788.

U.S. troops about to enter the Spanish-American War, which included the liberation of Cuba from Spanish control, shipped out of New Orleans and returned there (which is why New Orleans was full of used brass instruments around the turn of the century.)

Also, several members of important community brass bands were part of the force that invaded and then occupied Havana after the war. You can be sure they brought back some Cuban feel from the experience.

Dave Bartholomew, the New Orleanian who put his formative stamp on rock ‘n roll in the late 1940s, says he got the riff from his iconic “Country Boy” (used later on thousands of rock tunes including Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”) from a Cuba Son record.

And on and on it goes.

The history continued in January of 2017 with a visit by high school jazz students from Havana to New Orleans, the first such visit in at least 60 years (possibly the first such visit ever.)

The kids worked with musicians at Preservation Hall and gave a performance which was received enthusiastically by the city’s discriminating jazz fans.

In the captions below, we note the names of the Cuban educators who train and manage the band, two of the great unsung heroes in the Horns to Havana organization: Enrique Toledo and Camilo Moreira.

Orchestra Director Enrique Toledo

Camilo Moreira conducts

Standing ovation in New Orleans for the kids from Cuba

Enrique Toledo conducts the Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán Jazz Orchestra in Havana, January 2016.

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

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