Musicians gather in Havana for international jazz festival

World Today

One of the biggest jazz festivals in Latin America is underway in Havana, and despite tighter U.S. travel rules for Cuba, there is no shortage of famous American jazz musicians.

CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from the festival.

Havana has reverberated to the sounds of jazz for the past week.

From concert halls to street corners, more than 50 artists from Cuba and around the world are performing at this year’s International Jazz Plaza Festival. Among the headline acts were several leading U.S. artists, including singer-songwriter Dee Dee Bridgewater.

But the festival isn’t just about concerts and the opportunity to hear great jazz. There is also an extensive program of workshops and master-classes.

Victor Goines is a U.S. jazz saxophonist and former director of the Jazz Program at the Juilliard School in New York. Students from Havana’s junior high music school were among the audience watching as Goines took time out in Havana to talk of his experiences and pass on some tips.

“I’m excited,” Gabriela Muriedas, a 14-year-old music student said. “because you learn a lot of things and it’s very good to hear a big saxophonist like him.”

Also giving a master class was one of Cuba’s leading Latin Jazz saxophonists, Cesar Lopez, who in his spare time runs a sax jazz program at their school.

“Jazz in Cuba is very healthy,” Lopez explains.

“It’s a music with its own style and fans. I don’t think that such a genuine and strong art-form such as Jazz will ever die.”

These gatherings are also an opportunity for both sides to learn from each other.

As Goines put it, “Cuba Jazz, that music grooves because it comes so much out of their dance tradition, just like American jazz comes out of swing.”

For a taste of how the styles can mix, two Grammy award winners shared the stage: Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes performed with the great American tenor sax player Joe Lovano.