Cuba

Carol Friedman

When we last heard from Chucho Valdés, the magisterial Cuban pianist and composer, he was engaged in patrilineal homage.

On Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico, released last year, he joined forces with Arturo O'Farrill to celebrate the legacies of their fathers, who were in the first rank of Cuban jazz royalty.

Courtesy of the artist

The Cuban mambo group Orquestra Akokán visited our studio at WBGO yesterday. In this Checkout podcast, you'll hear their full performance, and my conversation with two co-leaders from the band.


Courtesy of the artist

Pianist Harold López-Nussa opens a busy week in the Northeast tonight and Wednesday at Jazz Standard in New York City. His trio is out and about to promote their new album, Un Día Cualquiera (Just Another Day). 


Emma Lee Photography/Courtesy of the artist

Since Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo birthed "Manteca" in the '40s just as Cuban musicians like Machito were shaking up New York's jazz scene, Afro-Cuban jazz has continued to entice and fascinate North American musicians into new collaborations and explorations.

Alfredo Rodriguez
Chris Tobin

While he has many fascinating stories to tell, pianist and composer Alfredo Rodríguez is all about the music.  

During his recent visit to our performance studio at WBGO, Rodríguez touched on stories of his life in Cuba and his migration to the United States. There's also his life-changing 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival encounter with Quincy Jones, which has led to “Q” producing two of his recordings for Mack Avenue, including his latest, The Little Dream.

Motema

Arturo O’Farrill makes music steeped in the pantheon of Afro-Latin culture. He can’t help it. It’s in his DNA.

David Garten

For nearly two decades, the Cuban drummer and composer Dafnis Prieto has been a creative force best measured by the scale of his ambition.

Allison Au performs at FIJM
Valerie Gay-Bessette for FIJM

I quit buying Cuban cigars in Montreal 20 years ago. U.S. Customs back then was just inside the airport entrance — and, before 9/11, security was not much more than a look at one’s passport. I’d brought back Cuban cigars before without an agent objecting, but one morning in the '90s an agent…objected. When he asked matter-of-factly if I’d bought any, I openly said “Yes.  Two.” 

“You have two choices,” he said with a shrug. “You can throw them in this trash can,” he said with a smile.  “Or you can go out on the sidewalk and smoke them now.”

Jean Marc Lubrano

Two brilliant pianists. Two ebullient Cubans. Two intrepid young Englishmen. Two lovable standards, in new colors. The math may not seem to add up in this edition of Take Five, but the music — five winning tracks from as many different acts — most certainly does. (But who's counting, anyway?)

Jure Pukl

The tune was familiar yet unfamiliar, an iconic object seen through a funhouse prism. It was “El Manisero,” the bedrock Cuban standard, refurbished with shadowy postbop harmony and a rolling montuno in 18/8 time. Portillo & Cauce was playing to a packed house at La Zorra y el Cuervo, one of the leading jazz clubs in Havana, and they couldn’t have sounded sleeker or more modern.

Steve Mundinger / Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

HAVANA, Cuba — Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba sat at a pair of grand pianos on Sunday night at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonzo, during the sixth annual International Jazz Day Global Concert, and modeled more than one kind of equilateral exchange.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Danny Clinch

Buried somewhere in the fathoms of YouTube is a recent clip of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, apparently filmed with a smartphone in Santiago de Cuba. The band, synonymous with the ebullient spirit of New Orleans, is playing a staple of its book, Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras." What's notable about this version of the song, from December of 2015, is the punchy assist provided by some Cuban percussionists, who fall right into step with its second-line groove. 

David Garten

Political expression isn’t a new impulse for pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill, who leads the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. But he’s taking his most direct action yet with “Musicians Against Fascism,” a concert he has organized at Symphony Space. Scheduled for this Thursday, the eve of the presidential inauguration, it’s an act of protest involving more than a dozen notable jazz artists.