Cuba jazz fest gathers world’s top musicians

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A report from Xinhua.

The 34th Havana Jazz Plaza International Festival on Sunday wrapped up a week of performances by top international musicians.

Musicians from 14 countries joined Cuban artists in nearly 100 concerts and shows in Havana and the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

Thousands of locals and foreign visitors crowded nightclubs, concert halls and public plazas to listen to the musicians who have influenced Cuban music over the years.

“This edition is closely linked to rumba and popular music, which are living examples of the influence and importance of jazz on Cuba’s (music) scene,” Victor Rodriguez, president of the Jazz Plaza Festival, told reporters at a recent press conference.

He was accompanied by Bobby Carcasses, one of Cuba’s most important showmen, who said the event has become an attractive venue for musicians from all over the world to display their talent and learn about the quality and authenticity of Cuban jazz.

“In Cuba, we made our contributions by adding our native percussion and sounds, a mixture of African and Caribbean roots that have been invaluable, and even produced the emergence of Latin jazz, a current that has contributed to the genre,” Carcasses said.

“Composers and musicians around the world are very interested in enjoying and appreciating how jazz is conceived and experienced on this island,” he said.

According to Roberto Fonseca, one of the festival organizers, year after year an increasing number of renowned foreign musicians have attended the event, such as Arturo O’Farrill, a U.S. pianist with Cuban origin.

This edition of the festival also featured young British star Joss Stone, Americans Dennis Chambers (drummer), Jeff Berlin (bassist), Yosvany Terry (saxophone), Dick Griffin (trombone) and multi-instrumentalists David Sancious and Roger Glenn.

Other internationally celebrated musicians included Israeli guitarist Oz Noy, Spanish singer Patricia Kraus and Australians Dan Barnett (trumpet) and Emma Pask (vocalist).

Parallel to the concerts, the 14th International Colloquium named in honor of Leonardo Acosta was held in Havana and Santiago de Cuba to delve into jazz and its connections to Cuban music. It was attended by musicians and researchers from the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia, Argentina, Germany, Uruguay, Japan and Britain.

Participants discussed jazz’s relationship with Cuba’s music industry, its links to streaming music applications, and the genre’s international projection and ability to merge with other musical styles from different regions.

“The festival is also an expression of the maturity and quality of the contemporary jazz movement on the island, which is gaining strength within the country and radiating to the rest of the world,” said popular Cuban musician Giraldo Piloto, one of the founders of the festival.

The festival is one of the most anticipated musical events of the broad Cuban cultural scene, emerging in 1980 from a series of events organized by Carcasses. It is currently held on an annual basis and organized by Cuba’s National Center for Popular Music.

Since its first edition, the festival has fostered exchanges between young and experienced representatives of Cuban and foreign jazz, while serving as a platform to unearth new local talents.

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