Marsalis in Cuba for jazz concerts
HAVANA – A country known for groundbreaking jazz is getting a visit from one of America’s leading trumpeters, who spent the weekend jamming with Cuban legends ahead of a concert series that will put musicians from the two Cold War enemies on stage together.
The visit by Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra kicks off a season of unprecedented cultural exchanges — with the American Ballet Theater scheduled to perform in Havana next month in honour of Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso.
Several Cuban musicians have also traveled to the United States in recent months, taking advantage of a more relaxed visa policy under President Barack Obama.
Marsalis, seated next to Cuban jazz great Chucho Valdez and Buena Vista Social Club diva Omara Portuondo at a news conference today, said it was a thrill to be in Havana for the concerts. While Marsalis has been in Cuba before, it was the first trip by New York’s Lincoln Center jazz group.
“It’s a great honor for us as musicians to come here to Havana because of the long tradition and the great musicians who have come from here,” Marsalis said.
Marsalis, 48, spent the weekend playing with Cuban musicians at an impromptu jam session, and also recording music with Valdez and Portuondo. The concerts run from Tuesday through Saturday, and there will also be master classes for promising young Cuban musicians.
Marsalis said it would be a particular pleasure to share the stage with Valdez, whom he grew up listening to as a boy in a supremely musical New Orleans family.