Cubanisms: North American Band with Deep Cuban Musical Roots

The echoes of Jazz Plaza still bounce in Cuba. Every year the festival becomes a true musical bridge among groups of different formats that defend various sounds, going hand in hand with the countries they represent and the roots or musical influences they have.  

The story in this article speaks about the band Cubanisms, a North American jazz band from Kansas City but with the Cuban tres guitar and the fusion with different sounds of our country build up the essence of its musical arrangements, even the primary source for inspiration of its leader and musical director Michael McClintock.  

This multiethnic band is sounding since 2015, last year 2018 they earned according to the newspaper Pitch the “Best local Band”; the nomination as “Best performer” went to McClintock; and its vocalist, Fedra Cooper, received a nomination for “Best vocalist”.  

They have been trying to come to Cuban for a while now as a group and participate, after in 2017 they launched their first album: “Cuban accent”, where songs like El cuarto de Tula, Inolvidable, and Aguanile stand out. The group also has interesting song arrangements of Flor Palida, of Polo Montañez, and other icon songs of the Cuban music besides Michael already works in the writing of his own songs thinking of the second album. Without renouncing to the essence of their proposal so far.  

Going back to their presence at Jazz Plaza Festival, they took an important step when they were in Cuba in January 2018. They promoted their disk here in Cuba, McClintock had the chance of being invited as tres guitar player to play with different Cuban bands, and that opened him the doors to come in 2019. Besides, the band’s debut album competed in the category of International Prize in Cubadisco 2018.  

Of course whenever asked about the drive of this special opportunity he always asserts that it’s his wife Dálida, Cuban through and through and whom he met precisely here in one of his previous trips to take tres guitar lessons.  

“She has a huge energy and an organizational capacity that I’ve never seen in anyone. She takes my musical career more seriously than me. She is my manager, consultant, main promoter, she gives ideas, and what’s essential, inspiration source. I am blessed to have met her and have her by my side", said the musician.  

He decided to establish a romance with the Tres guitar after listening Barbarito Torres (Buena Vista Social Club) for the first time, Mc Clintock deepened: "The Tres guitar is basically an accompanying instrument, essential when defending Cuban traditional music. What I think is interesting in our proposal is that the arrangements and proposals of Cubanisms are not bounded to traditional music: we shift in styles like jazz, flamenco, bossa nova and other Brazilian rhythms. All that merged with the Afro-Cuban rhythms.  

We are extremely happy, because Jazz Plaza was the first international performance for Cubanisms, and the first time the band was in Cuba complete. It was an honor for all of us to be able to perform in one of the most important musical festivals of this country.  

In fact, we are working in our first DVD with the footage of the concerts in Bertolt Bretch and at Fábrica de Arte, a place simply incredible, where people connect with one in a very natural way.  

That is something that all my musicians praised here and that it differs when we perform in Kansas City or anywhere within the United States: the way in which the public connects and gets involved with our music. I believe is in the blood of Cuban that musicality.  

The essence of what we seek with Cubanisms is that when people listen to our music they can identify us right away. I personally love Cuban rhythms and the fusion with other sounds of different countries. We are working so that the second album, with most of the songs written by me, it comes the as near as possible to that objective", he said.  

An interesting element is that Cubanisms is more than a musical band. Since it started wants to become a cultural project that also includes the organization of trips to Cuba to be deeply involved with culture, the traditions and different institutions, besides working as bridge in the relationships between our country and the United States. A bridge spread by music, love and respect to our people and its culture.

Concert by Cuban jazz star Roberto Fonseca closed Jazz Plaza 2019 Festival

The 34th International Jazz Plaza Festival winded up Sunday evening with a concert by renowned young Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca at Havana’s National Theater Avellaneda Hall.  

The show titled “The Cuban Voices” included the performance of the band Temperamento and the so called Diva del Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, as a special guest. Also scheduled for the evening’s closing concert: singers Bárbara Yanes, Eme Alfonso, Haila María Mompié, Ivette Cepeda, María Victoria Rodríguez and rappers La Reina and La Real. Sax player Michel Herrera, singer Paulo FG and composer Juan de la Cruz Antomarchi were also set to perform for  “The Cuban Voices” in a mixture of music genre.

For a week the Cuban capital and the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba were the venues of concerts and jam sessions with a diversity of styles performed by 50 international musicians from the United States, Spain, Argentina, Italy, Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil.

International jazz celebrities have stood out among guests, including battery players Dave Weckl and Dennis Chambers, bassist Jeff Berlin, flautist Néstor Torres, pianist Arturo O'Farrill and singer Patricia Kraus.

Britain’s Joss Stone, Cuba’s Dafnis Prieto, Brazil’s Rodrigo Sosa, Australia’s Emma Pask and the US’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans gave luster to the festival, as well as event’s founder, Cuban maestro Bobby Carcacéss, and other younger Cuban jazz musicians, such as  Héctor Quintana, the López-Nussa brothers, AfroCuban jazz singer Daymé Arocena and counter bassist Gastón Joya.

Edited by Damian Donestevez
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USA Jazz Band Builds Bridges in Cuba

''Mushulu Band'' is a musical project that seeks to defend from jazz the differences, blur borders and spread respect, tolerance and acceptance,'' declared members of this U.S. band today.

The group, founded a few months ago, is made up of prestigious musicians such as Jeff Berlin (bass), Dennis Chamber (drums), Oz Noy (guitar) and David Sancoius (keyboard).

The debut of the quartet and its first time on Cuban stages will take place tonight in the Avellaneda Hall, of the National Theater, as part of the International Jazz Plaza Festival.

The presentation will recall historical themes from their repertoires that mark, in a certain way, the particular sound that the band will defend from now on.

The show will be accompanied by the recording of a DVD, an initiative that, as Sancoius explained, 'defends live music by its ability to capture the magic of the show and the energy transmitted by the public when they are on stage.

The name of the quartet comes from a famous ship that during World War II (1939-1945) transported immigrants from Finland, Sweden, and other countries to North American shores.

With decades on the international stage, the members of the Mushulu Band are nourished by various genres thanks to the experiences gained in other groups and their contact with musicians from various nations.

His collaborations include names such as Bruce Spingteen, Stanley Clarke, Narada Michael Walden, Zucchero Fornaciari, Peter Gabriel, Sting, John Scofield, Steely Dan, Carlos Santana, Parliament/Funkadelic, John McLaughlin, Niacin, Mikeia Stern, Victor Wooten and Greg Howe.

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Bobby Carcassés will open International Jazz Festival Plaza 2019

Master Bobby Carcassés, National Music Award 2012, will officially open the 34th International Jazz Festival Plaza 2019, which will be held next January 14-20, with the concerts by Afrojazz and Timba Funk next Wednesday in the Avellaneda Hall of the National Theatre of Cuba.

Carcassés informed the press at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba that he will share the stage with important exponents of the genre such as Roger Glenn, Yosvany Terry and Dick Griffin (Cuba-United States), and that Puerto Ricans Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende will also attend the stage along with 8 y Más, as well as Tony Succar and his Unity Project.

At the conference, the director of the National Center for Popular Music and president of Jazz Plaza, Victor Rodriguez Garcia, reported that this edition shows a significant increase in the participation of foreign musicians of the highest level, such as Arturo O'Farril (United States), Joss Stone (United Kingdom) and Patricia Kraus (Spain).

Rodríguez García pointed out that as a novelty in this 34th edition of the festival, the renowned Cuban plastic artist Alberto Lescay was asked to create the poster for the presentation of the event, an initiative that will be carried out in future editions by other prestigious exponents of visual art in the country.

He explained that this time the event will be closely related to other genres of Cuban popular music, with the presentation of jazz players in hand to hand with groups such as Septeto Santiaguero, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and others.

It was also informed that the event will include among its venues Mella and America theaters, the Avellaneda and Covarrubias halls of the National Theater and the Tito Junco hall of the Bertolt Brecht Cultural Center, the Pergola and the Central Stage of the Cuba Pavilion, Coppelia Gardens and the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba.

The festival will be extended for the third time to Santiago de Cuba, where it will also have a comprehensive program of concerts in important locations such as the Iris Jazz Club, Plaza de Marte, Hotel Meliá Santiago, Fundación Caguayo and Plaza Dolores.

Tributes will be paid to Bobby Carcassés, Cuban showman and main manager of Jazz Plaza in the 80s, to the centenaries Benny Moré and El Niño Rivera, to the emblematic orchestras Aragón and Van Van, to the Cuban Music Institute and to the four record companies of the country, radio program La esquina del jazz and others. (ACN)

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Chucho Valdes Opens 32th International Jazz Festival in Cuba

Havana, Dec 16 (Prensa Latina) The 32nd edition of the International Jazz Plaza Festival has began in Cuba, with a performance by legendary pianist, Chucho Valdes, which was described as historical and unrepeatable.

Valdes himself said, 'this is without rehearsal, if we do it a thousand times, a thousand times will be different.'

A few seconds later, American trumpeter, Terence Blanchard; and his compatriot, Christian McBride, started playing along with Valdes, creating a unique harmony among them.

Valdes, Blanchard and McBride shared the stage for the first time and the result was a superb performance, a high-carat jam session that began with "Blue Monk", a theme by Thelonious Monk, who is an American jazz pianist and composer with a special gift for improvisation.

Dressed in a blue beret and white suit, the Cuban pianist, who has won five Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards, stated that Blanchard, a six-time Grammy winner, and McBride, who has won three, have a legacy in jazz despite being young men.

The three musicians performed yesterday at a concert held at Mella Theater in Havana that ended almost at midnight.

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