JAZZ PLAZA – Cuba’s annual international jazz festival in person and online 18-23 January 2022

Six days of jazz – concerts, colloquiums, conferences, video presentations, following all covid-19 rules, Jazz Plaza 2022, in its 37th year is taking place January 18-23.

Vitico Rodríguez, president of the organizing committee said: “The Cuban public and also the musicians were eager for Jazz Plaza to be held this year. It will not be as we had initially thought, but at least live concerts will be possible and you will be able to enjoy that unique interaction that jazz generates on stage.”

The inaugural gala featured Bobby Carcassés and Nachito Herrera. One, the most veteran Cuban jazz players; another, an exceptional pianist who has developed a successful artistic career in the United States and, at the same time, promotes dialogue between the two peoples and calls for an end to the blockade against the Island.

One of the special moments of the festival was the show ‘From Blues to Timba-from Timba to Jazz’ by the founder of the event Bobby Carcassés with his Big Band Afrojazz, which included musicians Cesar López, Roberto Carcassés, Jamil Shery, Edgar Martínez, Octavio Kotan, Tanmy López, Miguel Ángel García, Belinda Guerra and Laura Valdivia.

Bobby Carcasses premiered the song Guajira Blues accompanied by the voice and violin of Tammy López; Carcásses at the piano, and special guests saxophonist Cesar López and vocalist Zule Guerra.

To end the festival is the outdoor concert ‘Cuba lives’, on Sunday 23 January at 9:00 pm on the esplanade of La Punta, as well as a big concert in the National theatre with Cuban musicians Germán Velasco together with José Luis Cortés, César López, Cuban Sax Quintet, Orlando Valle, Javier Zalba, Jorge Reyes, Héctor Quintana, Adel González and the Big Band. On Sunday 16, the pre-festival show was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra on the same outdoor site.

Jazz Plaza 2022 took place in the National Theatre, the Bertolt Brecht Cultural Centre and the América theatre. International musicians including Marieke Louix (Belgium), Javier Malosetti (Argentina), Dominic Miller and Haley Gray (United States), Radovan Tariska (Slovakia) , Mikedel Ferro (Holland), Pekka Pylkkanen (Finland), Sebastián Carmelo Armas (Spain), all performed, but also many Cuban artists of excellence, belonging to several generations.

The festival included the recital by the prestigious American saxophonist Donald Harrison together with the Young Jazz Band directed by Cuban maestro Joaquín Betancourt, 2019 National Music Award winner, as well as the performance of the Congolese multi-instrumentalist Ray Lema accompanied by the French pianist Laurent de Wilde.

The international colloquium ‘Leonardo Acosta in memoriam’, spread across the week, presented tributes (remembering César Portillo de la Luz on the centenary of his birth, the 95th anniversary of the pianist Numidia Vaillant, and the 85th anniversary of the percussionist and singer Oscar Valdés), presented new albums, discussed books and had panels dedicated to the analysis and perspectives of jazz in the current cultural industries.

The promotion, market and positioning of jazz and, in general, of Cuban music, was on the agenda of Primera Línea, the exchange forum with the participation of music business people and organizers of events outside the island, offering the opportunity to learn first-hand about domestic musical life and discuss experiences on international circuits.

Christoph Borkowsky, president of the Womex festivals, German specialist in the promotion of so-called world music, and the Anglo-Argentine Dominic Miller, who, in addition to being a guitar master, has an extensive career as a music producer, were taking part.

From report by UNEAC website in Spanish here and other report here

Watch one of the opening concerts including pianist Roberto Fonseca, Brenda Navarrete on bata and many massive names in jazz

This concert ‘Two Languages’ featured kit drummer/keyboards Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa responding to other Cuban jazz musicians such as violinist William Roblejo, pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, and other artists

Watch one of the Gran Conciertos – closing the festival Sunday 23 January 2022 with a homage to Juan Formell

Watch all the big concerts, small concerts and descarga (jam) sessions by many more artists on this youtube channel playlist here