27th Havana International Jazz Festival: Havana, Cuba, December 15-18, 2011
Aldo Lopez-Gavilan started his set playing a beautiful rendition of Debussy's "Reflets dans L'eau" from "Images" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" before being joined by the rest of his quartet, consisting of bass, drums and clarinet for "Pan Con Timba," and finally by the Chamber Orchestra of Havana for his composition "Talking to the Universe." The effect was evocative of some of the work that McCoy Tyner has done with similar groups without being imitative.
The fourth evening and the closing concert at the Teatro Mella featured Joaquin Betancourt and his twenty-piece big band in an ambitious program of original Betancourt arrangements of selections from the classical repertoire. Betancourt is known as one of the most active arrangers in Cuba as well as being active as a violinist, conductor, producer, composer and professor of music. The finale was his arrangement of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with the notable Cuban pianist Frank Fernandez at the piano.
The program started with the third movement of "La Cathedral," a work by Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangoré. Originally written for solo guitar, this arrangement featured Hector Manuel Quintana on electric guitar. "La Bella Cubana," an habanera written by nineteenth-century Afro-Cuban composer José Silvestre White, was a vehicle for an extended tenor saxophone solo. Tenor Yury Hernandez was featured on two selections, an arrangement of Giacamo Puccini's "E Luceven le Stelle," performed in Spanish as "Adios La Vida," and Mexican composer Maria Grever's bolero "Jurame." The big band featured Ignacio Cervantes' contradanza "Los Tres Golpes" and flutist Evelyn Suarez was featured in the second movement of Jacques Ibert's "Concerto for Flute." As an introduction to the Gershwin piece, Fernandez played a beautiful interpretation of Charles Gounod's "Ave Maria." The Gershwin performance was masterful and played as written with the exception of a short blues improvisation by Fernandez in the middle.
Coming up next, a look at several jazz soloists and groups that can be found performing in Havana today.
Page 1, Lead Photo: Foto Odalys Padilla
Page 1, Venue: Alex Paco