Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Jazz in Cuba


Sign in to view read count
Friends had told me to expect music everywhere I went in Havana: in the bars and clubs, coming out of doorways, windows and taxis, an outpouring of Latin polyrhythms that went on all day and night, like a soundtrack. What I hadn't expected to find, though, was the vast amount of jazz played by musicians of the highest calibre, both oldtimers and youngsters alike.

The jazz scene in Havana is spearheaded by two state-owned clubs, The Jazz Cafe, and La Zorra y El Cuevo (The Fox & The Crow). Of equal importance are the Havana Jazz International Festival (held annually every year since 1980) and Caliente! (a smaller, more local-oriented but equally swinging get-together). A Swiss company, Sound Managers, co- produces the latter event with the Cuban Musical Institute.

In recent years the week-long International Festival has featured the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chucho Valdez, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Chano Dominguez (Spain). Some dynamic female bands have been headlined as well, such as Clarisa y Las Diabalitas and a group from Germany.

The four-day Caliente! fest has offered the work of various salsa and Latin Jazz bands, plus hot DJs and dance troupes from the Tropicana nightclub.

The Jazz Cafe is located in Havana's first shopping mall, up on the third floor overlooking the malecon (waterfront). The first part of the evening is given over to food, drink and recorded music (not necessarily jazz). The club offers a live band at about 11 pm. Most of the bands are native, with names like Diakara and Top Secret, but occasionally jazz bands from abroad play here, like the Canadian group Wishworld.

The hottest jazz club in town is without doubt The Fox & The Crow. Its manager, Tony Orlando, is Cuban-born but has spent much time in the USA, dealing with the agents and managers who supply the International Festival with talent. Orlando also writes about jazz in Cuban periodicals, hosts a Sunday night jazz show on Radio Cadena Habana, and introduces the bands at The Fox & The Crow, both in Spanish and English. The man is a veritable dynamo.

There is a seven-dollar cover charge at Orlando's club, but food and drink are reasonable—and the music is superb. On the first of my ten nights there I heard a band led by a young pianist, Roberto Fonseca, who blew me away with his fire, virtuosity and drive. Just as remarkable was the 21-year-old alto saxophonist, Roberto Martinez, who jammed with Fonseca, then led his own band a few nights later.

Both of these up-and-coming stars studied at the government-sponsored Fine Arts Institute and are proud children of the Cuban Revolution.

During my stay I heard numerous other exciting groups, notably one playing a horn-led fusion of Madagascaran, Cuban and jazz styles that was so infectious and captivating that half the audience got up and danced.

The road to contemporary Afro-Cuban jazz runs through artists like Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Perez Prado and Machito, who in 1947 influenced such stateside musicians as Stan Kenton and Dizzy Gillespie. Other Cuban jazz musicians such as Chico O'Farrill, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Arturo Sandoval and Chucho Valdez have made major contributions as well.

Orlando told me about a whole slew of younger Cuban players who will soon be making their mark on the jazz world: Elmer Ferrier, Yazek Manzano, Jesus Fuentes, Toni Perez, Alexis Bosch, Mario Hernandez, Toni Rodriguez and Jonge Chicay.

So high is the level of their musicianship, Orlando explained, that many European comapnies come to Havana to record their latest CDs, whether the music is Latin-flavored or not.

The Fox & The Crow is located at Calle 23 and O Streets in the Vedado section of Havana. The music kicks off at about 11.30 pm and goes on until 2 am. No reservations are necessary.

For more information on Havana's jazz festivals, visit Cubarte on the web.


comments powered by Disqus

Warning: include(/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php5:/data/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html:/usr/share/php') in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

More Articles

Read The World's First International Online Contest by 7 Virtual Jazz Club General Articles The World's First International Online Contest by 7...
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 3, 2017
Read The Word is Beat: Jazz, Poetry & the Beat Generation General Articles The Word is Beat: Jazz, Poetry & the Beat Generation
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: August 12, 2015
Read Unseen Recordings: Copenhagen Jazzhouse Launches New Web Channel for Experimental Music General Articles Unseen Recordings: Copenhagen Jazzhouse Launches New Web...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 28, 2014
Read The Harlem Renaissance and American Music General Articles The Harlem Renaissance and American Music
by Mike Oppenheim
Published: March 3, 2013
Read Goodbye, Cecil's General Articles Goodbye, Cecil's
by David A. Orthmann
Published: March 14, 2012
Read Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: Jazz Aphorisms General Articles Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: Jazz Aphorisms
by Chris May
Published: December 23, 2011
Read "Joseph Leighton Trio at Jazzhole" Live Reviews Joseph Leighton Trio at Jazzhole
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "Chris Oatts Quintet at Chris’ Jazz Cafe" Live Reviews Chris Oatts Quintet at Chris’ Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Cathing up with Lee Konitz" Catching Up With Cathing up with Lee Konitz
by Lazaro Vega
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2" Profiles Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2
by Barry Witherden
Published: November 2, 2017
Read "Jazz and Philosophy" What is Jazz? Jazz and Philosophy
by Douglas Groothuis
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Smokin' at The Nash" In Pictures Smokin' at The Nash
by Dave Kaufman
Published: September 10, 2017