All That jazz
By Mercedes Ramos / Photos: Yander Zamora
One of the best, some say the best, places to hear jazz in Havana is in the unlikely location of a shopping mall on Paseo Avenue in Vedado, where you can enjoy the view of the intense blue of the sea from the large windows along with the strong beat.
You won't get lost in the mall because as you mount the stairs, a large copper sculpture of three jazz musicians by Cuban artist Octavio Cuéllar guides you into the Jazz Café, Where the walls are decorated with musical instruments and photos of famous jazz players like Chano Pozo, Dizzy Guillespie and Lázaro Ross.
On any given night you will hear live performances by the Best Cuban musicians around : Oscar Valdés and the Diákara band, César López and the Habana Ensemble and the Sexto Sentido Vocal Quartet or, of course, famous Cuban jazz Pianist Chucho Valdés, who is considered the Café's god father.
Apart from being one of the venues for the Havana Jazz Festival since it opened on January 12, 1999 (held this year February 14 to 18); many Canadian students have performed here thanks to the Canada-Cuba Sports and Cultural Festival institution.
When you come, look around, important Cuban and foreign figures of movies and music may be sitting next to you. People like Cuban classical pianist Frank Fernández, Cuban artist Mendive, and singers such as Cuban Pablo Milanés, Argentine Ricardo Montaner, Spanish Joan Manuel Serrat and the Mexican band Mana have been known to drop in.
The jazz part of the name Jazz Café has been explained. As a café, it offers great food and drinks ranging from light fare to Cuban and international cuisine with all kinds of rums and international cocktails available. One of the house specialties is the essence of Jazz Café: cinnamon liqueur, coffee, sugar, cream and cinnamon.