By IRINA ECHARRY, photos by CARIDAD
HAVANA TIMES, February 22 -While good music and a warm atmosphere predominated during Jazz Plaza 2009, nothing is perfect. After all, the festival is organized by humans and some things don’t turn out so well.
It was a shame that the conferences and workshops that took place as part of the Feb. 12-15 event were poorly attended. Perhaps with more publicity about the topics to be discussed like: Women in Jazz, Cuban cultural identity in contemporary jazz and Jazz in the media, more people would have taken part. The colloquium also included special performances by top artists.
Another problem at the festival was the ever-changing program which can vary only minutes before the performance is about to begin. The organizing committee should be careful with these inconveniences that throw off a public that plans to see a certain artist or group at a specific theater and when they arrive it’s someone else playing.
On that last night I went to the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza, the venue where the Festival was originally founded. There were no seats or walls to sit on, -a few years back people were able to get more comfortable when there was bleacher type seating-, but that didn’t matter. What’s important is the music.
After listening for an hour and a half of top-rate jazz the famous Van Van salsa band took the stage and attracted a different public than the usual for jazz.
For a festival featuring the best of Cuban jazz musicians and others from abroad, the Van Van wasn’t precisely a representative example of the genre. This spoiled the ending a little and should be taken into account for future editions.
Kash Killion’s (USA) excellent cello playing was one of the festival bright spots. His performance brought hope that in the coming festivals the US presence could once again take place in force -currently stymied by Washington’s travel ban- as the Cuban audience wishes to hear from the creators of jazz.
Any way you look at it, Jazz Plaza is a magic time, independent of its deficiencies and successes. For four days there was high-quality music, disc sales, and people from Cuba and other countries enjoyed an atmosphere that exuded energy and makes people feel better.