Jazz World Stars Offer Memorable Concert in Havana

The island opened the doors of the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, with capacity for 2,000 people, to celebrate International Jazz Day.

Since 2012, this event is celebrated every 30 April with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Cuba was chosen for the main event for this day that is celebrated simultaneously in more than 190 countries. In previous years it has taken place in New York, Istanbul, Osaka, Paris and Washington.

For more than two hours, the finest jazz came together on stage to pay homage to the American genre with deep black roots.

Less than two years ago, Cuba and the United States reestablished diplomatic relations, making the presence of American stars and travellers more common.

"Jazz has been the voice of freedom for millions of people of all ages, ethnicities and creeds, because it reaches the soul and connects with the spirit of all mankind," said an excited Will Smith.

More than 50 artists from a dozen countries were summoned in Havana to perform jazz.

"Havana became one of the most inspiring cities on the planet, full of life and dynamic", exclaimed excited American Herbie Hancock from the stage, after playing the piano and presenting Cubans Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

He described this duo as two of the best jazz pianists of all time and his prediction would soon be realised because they brought a bewitching lyricism the Blue Monk pieces in paying homage to a great pioneer of the genre, the American Thelonious Monk.

In fact, there were many tributes during the show and the first was to the superb Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo, with his famous Manteca tune, performed by musicians such as Russian saxophonist Igor Burtman and locals Oliver Valdés (drums) and Roberto Fonseca (piano), among others.

One of the entertainers of the evening, the charismatic American actor and rapper Will Smith, was not wrong to announce to a group of all star musicians that although they may not know each other, they communicated perfectly through the power and liberating spirit of jazz.

Another was the North American bass player Esperanza Spalding, so vibrant on stage and versatile being the first jazz musician to win a Grammy for Artist Revelation, who not only introduced people but then sang with the Cuban Bobby Carcassés and played the bass beautifully.

Spalding performed with the pizzicato technique as well as playing alongside the great violinist and fellow American Regina Carter, Cuban percussionist Yaroldy Abreu and South Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah, who sang the much-loved Bésame by Mexican composer Consuelito Velázquez.

The Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, French guitarist Marc Antoine, Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, Chinese pianist A Bu, German trumpeter Till Bronner and Japanese Takuya Kuroda all played the show.

The Brazilian composer Ivan Lins delighted with his style and, for the Cuban side, William Roblejo, Eduardo Sandoval, Pancho Amat, Barbarito Tórres, Yasek Manzano, Oscar Valdés, Orlando Valle (Maraca), Cesar López, Alexander Abreu and other stars.

From the United States came singer Kurt Elling, saxophonists Kenny Garret and Antonio Hart, drummer Carl Allen, bass players Marcus Miller and Ben Williams, pianist Christian Sands, vocalist Cassandra Wilson and even legendary producer Quincy Jones came on the stage to liven up the show.

Also celebrated were the Lebanese pianist Tarek Yamani and the Tunisian Dhafer Youssef, a lute in hand and his traditional Mediterranean sound.

Each union of musicians could be considered a first-class event, there was a lot of quality tonight, and above all great respect for Cuban music, Afro-Cuban jazz and the ethics of jazz, based on cooperation, for understanding and shared enjoyment , That was it.

The evening closed with John Lennon's "Imagine."

In the boxes were special guests, led by the First Cuban Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, together with the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bókova."We celebrate the power of jazz to unite and mobilize people in the name of peace, dialogue and human unity," said the Director-General of Unesco during the show.

Link to original report in Spanish

Watch the video of the show on youtube here