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Bobby Carcasses Brings His Afrojazz to The Jazz Gallery, NYC

Tomas Pena By

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Bobby Carcasses
Jazz Gallery
New York, New York
March 11, 2010


Afro-Cuban Jazz guru Bobby Carcasses made a rare New York appearance at New York's Jazz Gallery, an international cultural center and performance space located in downtown Manhattan. The elder statesman is celebrating 50 years in the music business and visited the Big Apple as part of a promotional tour for his most recent recording, De La Habana a Nueva York (Vero Records, 2010), which was recorded in Brooklyn, New York.


A consummate showman with a flair for the dramatic, Carcasses sings, dances, plays the piano, bass, percussion and flugelhorn. In addition, he is a visual artist and an avid practitioner of yoga and meditation.


On this particular evening, the talented, versatile performer kicked off the festivities with a unique (a cappella) interpretation of "Son de La Loma," integrating elements of bebop, scat, Yoruba chants and rhythms. Then he turned to the keyboard and accompanied himself on the bolero, "No Sera De Mi." Midway through the tune, pianist Manuel Varela, bassist Yunior Terry, drummer Dafnis Prieto, saxophonist Yosvany Terry and percussionist Marvin Diz joined him onstage (followed by flutist, Andrea Brachfeld, who appeared onstage with the group a bit later). Carcasses' passion for American jazz was most apparent during his interpretations of "On Green Dolphin Street" (sung in Spanish) and "Sometimes I'm Happy" (sung in English). He also paid tribute to two Cuban icons, Miguelito Valdes ("Babalu") and Chano Pozo ("Blues Para Chano"), which evolved into an all-out descarga (jam session). Lastly he performed "De La Habana a Nueva York" and a heartfelt bolero titled "Veronica," which he dedicated to his daughter.



It's difficult to praise this ensemble too highly. All are Cuban expatriates— Carcasses' "apprentices"—and formidable musicians in their own right. From the outset, moreover, it was obvious they were there to make a joyous noise in demonstration of their love and respect for an icon and father figure who has had a major impact on their lives.



Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1938, Carcasses, at the age of four, moved with his family to Villa Clara, Cuba, where he was surrounded by the sounds of Beny More, Conjunto Casino and Roberto Faz as well as the music of Enrico Caruso and Sarah Vaughan among others. During the 1950's, after becoming involved with some of the best vocal groups in Cuba, he began to experiment with bebop and scat vocalizing. During the 1960s he traveled to Europe, spending a year in Paris, where he performed with the legendary Kenny Clarke and Bud Powell among others. Upon returning to Cuba, he worked in the Teatro Musical, where he encountered the future founders of Irakere. Throughout the next decade, he performed in the best nightclubs in Havana and appeared in films, leading to his own group, Afrojazz.



But it was during the 1980s, when he organized the first Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana, that his fame as an international star became assured. Since then, he has traveled to Canada, England, France and the U.S., where he has performed with legends such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Mario Bauza, Chucho Valdes and Patato Valdez. A "young" 71 years, Carcasses presently resides in Cuba, where he continues to perform, teach and inspire young musicians while caring for his mother (who is 96 years old) and remaining always ready to fight the good fight.


Photo credit

Bobby Carcasses

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