27th Jazz Plaza Festival
By José Dos Santos
Initiated over four decades ago, this year the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival will strengthen its international category with an impressive participation of Cuban and overseas stars. Convened by the Cuban Institute of Music and the National Centre for Popular Music, the 27th edition of this musical festival will bring together in Cuba, from December 15th to 18th, a selection of the most representative jazz musicians in the country and many interpreters of great prestige on a worldwide level.
Among the latter, those already confirmed include four teachers from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the most important jazz university in the world, along with the Julliard in New York.
They will be led by saxophonist and composer Neil Leonard, and among its participants is Joanne Brackeen, legendary piano player and a professor of the highest academic rank. Rounding out the quartet are well-known musicians and professors such as bassist John Lockwood and drummer John Ramsey.
Other publicized attendees from the United States are Arturo, the son of Chico O’Farrill, who will visit the island home of his father for the third time, and excellent drummer Will Calhoun, the musical godson of the great Wynton Marsalis and a member of the well-known group Living Colours. He will arrive in Havana accompanied by pianist Marc Anthony Cary and bassist Bruñis Earl Travis II.
One U.S. musician who is a repeat in Jazz Plaza will be multi-instrumentalist Kash Killion, who has lectured on the use of unusual instruments in jazz, such as the sarangi of India.
In addition, the participation of Laberinto del Caos is expected, a jazz-fusion band composed of Peruvian and Mexican musicians. Japanese pianist Nori Ogawa, based in México and who has already worked and recorded in Cuba, is also coming, as is Indian singer and Polygram recording artist Joe Álvares and Venezuelan bassist Miguel A. Petruccelli. Prominent on the Cuban side is the return to the Jazz Plaza stages of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, one of the greatest jazz pianists of the day, and his trio, formed by bassist Matthew Brewer and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Also accompanying Rubalcaba will be drummer Ignacio Berroa, bassist Lionel Loueke and percussionist and vocalist Pedro Martínez who formed part of a new production entitled Gonzalo Rubalcaba 21st Century, which comes out on the market this December.
A main attraction will again be the Festival’s Honorary President, Jesús “Chucho” Valdés, who for years encourages, promotes and supports these events.
The Opening Gala will be in the hands of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Entrevoces Choral Group, Jorge Reyes and Roberto Fonseca, among others. The Closing event will have a special concert by Frank Fernández with the Jazz Band directed by Joaquín Betancourt, and guests. In the schedule, to be developed in seven locations in the capital’s municipality of Plaza – where this event was born in 1969 – some 30 bands and solo artists, from both the old and new generations, are being announced.
Standing out among the historical and already seasoned artists are Bobby Carcassés, Jorge Reyes, Ernán López- Nussa, Alexis Bosch, Orlando Sánchez (Cubajazz), Bellita and Jazztumbatá, Emilio Morales, Alfred Thompson, Mezcla, Jesús Fuentes, Klimax, Oscar Valdés and Diákara, Ruy López-Nussa, César López and Javier Salva. The new stars will be spearheaded by Yasek Manzano, Harold López-Nussa, Rolando Luna, Jorge Luis Pacheco, Sexto Sentido, Alejandro Falcón, Michel Herrera, William Roblejo and Ernesto Camilo Vega.
As part of the Festival, the 7th Theoretical Colloquium will be held in which master classes and lectures will be provided. There will also be screenings of documentaries and the sale of specialized magazines, albums and videos.