Jazz Exchange in Cuba Good for Latin Music


The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis visited Cuba to participate in a Jazz musical exchange with Cuban musicians.

This has to be good news for Latin music everywhere, especially for Latin Jazz. I’m confident that the talent and musical knowledge the Cubans have will be one of the highlights the Americans will bring back home.

Cuba and Wynton Marsalis Embrace with Music

Wynton Marsalis in Cuba
Wynton Marsalis on one of many performances he did for the people of Cuba.

Wynton Marsalis has been pointed out in the past as not acknowledging the contributions of Afro-Cuban music in the development of Jazz. I don’t know if this is true, but Marsalis is one of the most respected Jazz historians and educators in the world. However, I have never seen him talk about the Latin influence and contributions to Jazz.

I believe this visit to Cuba will change that. Cuban musicians have deep knowledge of Cuban music and its roots. They are also very knowledgeable of other types of music, including Jazz. They demonstrated that by playing Jazz standards to the visiting Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The Wynton Marsalis band reciprocated in kind by playing some Cuban and Latin Jazz favorites. However, I have to believe that it will come much more naturally for the Cubans to play the Jazz standards than for the American to play Cuban music classics.

Below is a video of Marsalis “behind the scenes” visit to Cuba.

Jazz as a Exchange Currency for Latin Music

Wynton Marsalis doing clinics in Cuba
Wynton Marsalis gives clinics to Cuban jazz students in Havana.

The main purpose of these musical exchanges is that both sides enrich each other. I have no doubt that this objective was accomplished. Additionally, I’m hoping that this opening of access to Cuba and its music finally brings the knowledge to Americans musicians of the contributions Afro-Cuban music had on the evolution and formation of Jazz. They should be aware of the influence it still has today as a big genre of this fascinating Jazz music.

I hope that the openness to these musical exchanges that the Obama administration has made available continues through administrations to come. I’m also hoping that this exchange enables a richer evolution of both Jazz and Latin Jazz music.

You can find links to the New York Times articles on the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra visit to Cuba HERE. It describes the experiences for some of the participants. For example, seeing Chucho Valdes sit at the piano to play “Embraceable You” with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. Also, the Cuban kid that got overwhelmed by receiving complements for how he played by Mr. Marsalis.

Music is a wonderful thing to bring people together!

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