Maraca & Monterey Latin Jazz All Stars in Cuba

By Irina Echarry, Photos: Caridad

Sayaka and Maraca
Sayaka and Maraca

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 17 — Several days prior to the concert, the few tickets available to the public were sold out.  People knew it would be a first-class performance at the Grand Theater of Havana, but they were not overly concerned about missing it; Maraca himself had announced there would be a screen set up across the street in Central Park so that everyone who wanted to could listen to the jazz of Maraca and the Monterey Latin Jazz All Stars on the evening of January 12.

But at the last moment, it occurred to someone that the cold weather and jazz didn’t mix, so they did away with the screen, leaving an enthusiastic audience up in the air.

People who cross daily through that emblematic city park still clung to the hope of hearing the live performance of the duo of Horacio “el negro” Hernandez and Giovanni Hidalgo.

Hernandez is a Cuban drummer who has lived in the United States for years; while Hidalgo is a Puerto Rican, also residing in the US, who can be confused with an electronic sound machine – his hands move with amazing speed over the congas.  Both excelled in their interpretation of “Manteca,” by Cuban jazz legend Chano Pozo.

Harold López-Nussa
Harold López-Nussa

Those denied the opportunity would have enjoyed Julio Padron on trumpet, young Harold López-Nussa on piano, keyboardist Yusef Diaz and bassist Feliciano Arango – all Cubans who possess tremendous talent.

In addition, there was the Havana Chamber Orchestra, directed by maestro Ivan del Prado, which filled the hall with the lyricism of their strings as they played everything from Guido Lopez-Gavilan’s “Camerata Guanguanco” to songs of pure Latin jazz.

However, what was most regretted by the public who couldn’t see the concert live was their having missed the performances of other foreign artists – such as sax player David Sanchez from Puerto Rico; Hugh Fraser, a Canadian trombonist who has visited the island on several occasions; and Sayaka Katsuki of Japan —the only female guest artist— who made the crowd quiver along with the strings of her violin.

People in our capital should be upset because somebody decided not to erect the screen in Central Park.  This prevented them from hearing the song that takes the same name as the park, a composition in which all the guest musicians performed in this superb concert.

Only those of us who entered the theater could be witnesses to a night that was truly illuminated, where each one of the stars that ascended the stage offered their music and their light.

Maraca left us with the desire to again hear the fusion of jazz and classical Cuban 19th century music.  It was an impressive show in which even the scenery —simulating buildings of the Central Havana neighborhood— was impeccable.

It’s a shame they didn’t put up the screen so that all Cubans who dared to brave the cold could hear the superlative interpretations of “Los tres golpes,” by Cervantes; or “Presentación, Nueva Era y Afro,” by Orlando “Maraca” Valle.


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