Havana Jazz Jams


 Michael Herrera
Michael Herrera

HAVANA TIMES, Nov 30.- Jazz is a music of mixes; a blend of sounds, colors, races, temperaments. So is the audience that listens to it in Cuba. The second night of Havana’s Jojazz Festival began at the outdoor garden venue alongside the Mella Theater shortly after sunset on Friday, attracting jazz enthusiasts of all ages, attracted by the rhythm, melodies and improvisation and by the inexpensive entrance price of five pesos (US $0.25).

The Jam Session began before 7:00 p.m., the time when the colors in the sky give way this time of year to darkness, and the musical notes reach up to the stars. The band was led by pianist Rembert Duarte accompanied by several talented young musicians, including Josiel and Robertico Garcia on trumpet, Robieski on the drums and Mardelis, the only woman, playing the congas. The list of guest performers was long, the children had fun and the elderly danced. When I heard the song Palenque it made me feel like I was looking at a Wilfredo Lam painting.

With the night just beginning, I then moved quickly to Central Havana in search of more jazz.

The Madriguera (headquarters of the Hermanos Saiz Cultural Association) looks like a bewitched venue where time stands still. The music should have begun at 8:00 p.m. but it was after nine-thirty when the trees that surround this outdoor venue began to dance with the saxophone of Michael Herrera, who has won the Special Prize at several Jojazz events.

“Thanks for coming, this concert isn’t mine, everyone is going to play,” welcomed Herrera. He wasn’t concerned if the audience is the same that heard him play with Jorge Chicoy or with Bobby Carcasses. He caresses his instrument as if it were an old romance.

The night was dedicated to friends. In a more intimate uninhibited environment than the earlier venue, the audience sat on the ground in front of the stage or on the roof of the building behind, united by the spirit of camaraderie that jazz brings.

The musicians that played earlier at the Mella were now some of Michael’s guests. Abel Calderon and Roger Rizo on piano, Emir Santa Cruz on sax, Julio Real on the trumpet, Julio Ochoa on base and Reinier, Robieski and Leandro on drums. They all have something in common; the music intertwines them.

The jam went on till midnight with an audience of young and older; whites, blacks; the calm and those full of movement; foreigners and Cubans; smokers and non-smokers, a great mix. That’s jazz.

2 thoughts on “Havana Jazz Jams

  • I love the vibrancy of the photos! Hoping to make it there next year. CG

  • I would love to attend the Havana Jazz jam next year. I attend the JVC Jazz NYC, Newport Jazz Festival, The jazz fest. in San Juan PR, Saratoga Jazz fest in upstate NY. With the current administration I cannot travel to Cuba and attend the Jazz Fest. I hope that will change soon on January 20,2009. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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