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Friday, 19 January 2018

Jazz has a lot of Cuba in it

by: Rafael Lam, La Jiribilla, Cuba


The Jazz Plaza International Festival, now moved from December to January 16-21, is taking place at the Casas de Cultura HQ, in Havana's Vedado and many other Casas de Cultura in the capital and also at the Iris Club in Santiago de Cuba. The event, presided over by Chucho Valdés and Bobby Carcassés, has international guests such as Diego El Cigala.

The rise in the importance of the International Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana is not so surprising, for this capital of jazz has welcomed many legendary figures from abroad: Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancok, Tete Montoliu, Michel Camilo, Carmen McRae, Chano Dominguez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Charlie Haden, Danilo Perez, Gato Barbieri, Roy Hargrove, Max Roach, Steve Coleman, Airto Moreira, David Amram, Roy Ayers, Irene Reid, Leon Thomas, Dave Valentin, Terence Blanchard, Ronnie Scott's, Winston Marsalis, Ry Cooder, Stan Getz, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
From Cuba the world has welcomed: Chucho Valdés, Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Guito Chan, Tata Guines, Gonzalito Rubalcaba, Roberto Fonseca, the Lopez-Nussa family, Rolandito Luna and a cohort of new talents that already have a place in the international field.

The invasion of Cuban and Caribbean musicians to the United States dates from 1776. I have read of the arrival of 3,000 Haitians in 1809 and in 1810 more than 10,000 West Indian refugees arrived in New Orleans: there was a population flow from the Caribbean islands to New Orleans. Most of them coming from Santo Domingo (or Haiti, which was the name of the French colony after independence in 1804). Many black slaves, from the same African communities, along with their French colonists owners, fled the Haitian Revolution or escaped from the international struggles that were taking place in the Caribbean.

Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz wrote that "when New Orleans was Spanish, they communicated a lot with Cuba, and women singing guaracha songs from here were heard along the Mississippi."

New Orleans, at the time of the colony had a hybrid and exciting mix of musical elements. The city was prospering due the commerce around the port where the raw materials came in. The demand for musical entertainment grew very fast. Many of those black immigrants were musicians, they assumed double duty and were allowed to play for the dancers. With inauguration of the Storyville district (the brothel area) in 1897, jazz became a profession. All this was fundamental to the future development of American music, particularly in relation to the origin and growth of jazz.

A Cuban musician, born in 1863, called Manuel Pérez became a true legend of jazz; between 1890 and 1898 he played in different bands until he formed his own, called Imperial Band. Later he visited Chicago and other northern cities and returned to New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century.

Luis and Lorenzo Tio were Cuban-Mexican, they travelled and settled in New Orleans in 1884 with the Band of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of Mexico which included in its repertoire several dances, contradanzas and habaneras, all from Cuba. Other Cubans who settled in New Orleans were the Palau brothers, Paul Domínguez, Florencio Ramos, Peolops Núñez, Willie Marrero, Alcides Núñez and Jimmy Palau, who played in Buddy Bolden's band.

Frank Grillo "Machito", said that "when Cuba was a colony of Spain there were many independentistas who escaped to New Orleans, among them many musicians; that's why New Orleans was always so important. "

In 1884-1885, at the Industrial and World Cotton Exhibition, a Mexican band caused a sensation with the dance La Habanera (from Havana). The Habanera rhythm was adopted by several American composers: Gottschalk in 1854 and WC Handy in 1900, both had travelled to Cuba. Handy used the Habanera rhythm in his emblematic work ‘St. Louis Blues'.

The pianist Jelly Roll Morton learned to play Habaneras and said: "In my melodies you can hear the Latin nuance. In fact, if you are not able to put Hispanic nuances in your melodies, you can never get a real flavour, I say, for jazz. "

In the 1920s, in the middle of the Boom of the (Cuban musical form) son, New York was a home for growing numbers of Latinos. A number of Cuban musicians arrived in New York between the world wars. In 1927, one of those musicians was the flautist Alberto Socarras, called the Cuban Duke Ellington. At that time many sextets began to visit New York with the aim of playing in theatres, clubs and recording the Cuban son.

In 1930, the Orchestra of Don Azpiazu, with the singer Antonio Machín recorded ‘El Manisero' (the peanut seller), and with that recording and performances the first boom of Latin music was born, opening the way into the music industry of the whole continent. Even the great Louis Armstrong came to record a version of ‘El Manisero'. Alberto Iznaga's version came from Cuba to New York, in 1939, where he played in several orchestras and founded the Siboney Orchestra.

In the 1940s, New York stands out: Xavier Cugat, Miguelito Valdés, Desi Arnaz, Vicentico Valdés, Panchito Riset. Professor Raúl Fernández writes in his book ‘Latin Jazz', that Latin jazz (Cuban) is a combination of two musical traditions: American jazz and Cuban timbres (and its Caribbean touch). "Cuba brings its rhythmic complex: the habanera, the son, the rumba, the guaracha, the mambo, the cha cha chá and the descarga (jam). At the root of jazz and Caribbean music is African juice (sap). "

This Cuban combination has been developing since the early 1940s, Leonardo Acosta writes it in his book ‘Descarga': "Already in 1942 the main musicians of bop, then the jazz avant-garde, were interested in Afro-Cuban rhythms and were close to the Cubans Mario Bauzá and Frank Grillo (Machito). One of them was Dizzy Gillespie, who had participated in "descargas" with Mario Bauzá and Noro Morales, who also worked in the Alberto Socarrás orchestra. Gillespie frequently went to the Park Plaza and sat down to play with Machito. "In 1940 between Bauzá and Frank Grillo they organized the Machito and his Afrocubans orchestra. The experience would be a fusion - as we say now - of rice with black beans and hamburger: black, white, mestizo, jazz and Cuban rhythms. We are well aware that the abundant Cuban rhythm full of sounds and timbral variations enriches and feeds the most incredible jazz.

According to research by the specialist Luc Delannoy, in July 1940, in Spanish Harlem in New York, Machito trained his orchestra and after many rehearsals, debuted on December 3, 1940 at the Park Palace Ballroom, at the corner of 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, in Harlem. His repertoire is composed of guarachas, sones and rumbas, to reaffirm his attachment to the Cuban tradition. Machito takes the stage with his golden maracas, the band is extended to five saxophones, three trumpets, two trombones and one conga (drummer). "Our idea," explained Bauzá, "was to have an orchestra that could rival the American orchestras, with their sound but at the same time play Cuban music. So I hired guys who were in the habit of writing arrangements for Cab Calloway and Chick Web; I wanted them to give me that particular sound.

"Instead of conventional drums the Afrocubans used Latin percussion, they hired the timbalero (percussionist) and 17-year-old dancer named Ernest Anthony (Tito Puente) who would become the king of the Latin timbales. Tito learned from the percussionists of Cuba, especially from the 1900 Jazz Club and the effects of the legendary percussionist El Chori, at La Choricera, one of the cabarets on Marianao seafront in Havana. The Afrocubans was the first orchestra that incorporated harmonies and "solos" in jazz, using simultaneously a complete section of Afro-Cuban percussions like conga, bongo, clave, maracas and güiro that produce a range of rhythms overlapping, in a sensational poli-rhythm that left the Americans astonished, a little confused. They played congas on 6/8, timbales on 2/4 and bongo on 5/4.

In the summer of 1942, Delannoy is still counting, "the band Afrocubans is hired for La Conga cabaret, on 50th street. It is the first time that an orchestra of Latin American black musicians plays in that central neighbourhood of Manhattan. The diverse public forget their differences, they meet whites, blacks, mestizos, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, jazz fans, dancers, fans of Cuban and Caribbean music. On the opening night, Mario Bauzá invites the colossal Miguelito Valdés to perform the hit songs, the success is such that the owner of the club, Jack Harris, proposes to Machito a contract for an indeterminate duration.

"So important was the Cuban project in the United States that even Frank Sinatra became friends with Machito, he was going to listen to Club Brasil, in California, and they even sang together in the orchestra. A Cuban genius like Mario Bauzá, in 1943, created the composition Tanga, the first recorded testimony, the heraldic sound, of that type of Cuban jazz, the culmination of a creative process. When people heard that it was like a bomb going off and led to unprecedented success."

To continue the story, we need to mention the myth of the congas, the colossal musician Chano Pozo, up in 1947 to New York. The Cuban drummer joins Dizzy Gillespie, fusing the transient with the eternal, creating an invincible alliance. They record songs like ‘Manteca', a classic of Latin jazz. They appear in Carnegie Hall, in explosive encounters, a kind of rhythmic holocaust revolutionizing the bop style and laid the ground for many types of music that emerged later.

From the 1950s American musicians travelled to Cuba, and Cuban musicians from Cuba travelled or settled in the United States; together, in a friendly alliance they have worked for the music of both peoples of America, despite the blockade, and the intentions by the US government to create divisions. The International Jazz Plaza Festival, has served to maintain that bridge of musical brotherhood.

Link to original article in Spanish

translated by Google translate and slightly edited by Cuba50

Read more about Cuban roots in jazz and the development of Cuban music -

Cuba and its Music by Ned Sublette buy here


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