Nov./Dec. 2004

XXI Festival Internacional Jazz Plaza ( Havana Jazz Festival )
Viernes 17 de deciembre 2004 Teatro Amadeo Roldán La Habana
The Teatro Amadeo Roldán is a more intimate venue than last night's Teatro Karl Marx. It is smaller with a single balcony; it is carpeted, upholstered, panelled and trimmed with wood and it is decorated with some gorgeous colourful murals. Tonight we came prepared to withstand frigid temperatures but the A/C is merely set to Very Cool — the jacket will not be necessary, although I appreciate my long sleeve shirt. Tonight we select front row seats again, but off centre this time.
Concierto con 6 obras finalistas IV Premio SGAE de Jazz Latino 2004
In part one of tonight's program we will hear 6 compositions: they are the finalists of the fourth SGAE Awards for Latin Jazz.

Neysi Wilson

Bobby Carcassés
Once again the General Society of Writers and Publishers called on all Latin American and Spanish composers to send in their works for the 4th SGAE Awards competition. These awards were founded to recognize and stimulate the work of Latin American and Spanish composers working in the jazz genre and especially in Latin jazz. As has already become the tradition, the final phase of the competition takes place in Havana with the collaboration of the Cuban Institute of Music, the organizing body of the International Jazz Plaza Festival.

This year the works were played by a top quality quintet directed by famed bassist Jorge Reyes. Sitting with the audience was a panel of 5 international judges — pianist Chucho Valdés (Cuba), pianist/composer Michel Legrand (France), singer Soledad Giménez (Spain), guitarist Luis Salinas (Argentina) and saxophonist/flautist Carlos Malta (Brazil). Their task — to select the winners. Since one of the requirements is that a voice part be included in the works submitted, two vocalists were made available to interpret the compositions — the mythical Bobby Carcassés and the young Neysi Wilson.

To me this concert was one of the highlights of the festival. Where else could you hear in one evening the new works of 6 contemporary latin jazz composers? The music was wonderful, the musicians incredible — Jorge Reyes is a wizard on electric bass. This was my first opportunity to hear Bobby Carcassés live — rhythm, scatting, he has it all. The panel of judges is to announce their decision tomorrow — I don't envy them the task.

Concierto a 2 Pianos – Chucho Valdés (Cuba) y Michel Legrand (Francia)
During the intermission two grand pianos are rolled to the middle of the stage and fitted together in close embrace.

The great Chucho Valdés is then introduced, makes his entrance and is loudly welcomed by the capacity audience. He wears a black tuxedo and makes his way to the piano sitting stage right: we will be able to watch his hands for the duration of the concert!

Chucho is a true master of the keyboard, and he proceeds to dazzle us. His fingers run over the keys conjuring complex rhythms and fleeting melodies, now soft and gentle, now furious and driving. From Jazz to Classical, from Latin to Blues, the music is blended and rearranged in his brain, flows to his hands and pours out to us through the piano.

The music stops.

Michel Legrand makes his entrance to a roaring welcome. Habaneros love Michel and they know him well for he stays in their city a couple of times each year and shares his music with them. Also clad in a black tuxedo, he makes his way to the other piano, we will not be able to see his hands. As Chucho did before him, Michel now performs for us. And he sings, his voice is soft, and although it trembles at times, he directs it straight to our hearts. The music flows, such a gentle and grandiose passion!

Chucho now joins in and for the next hour we are transported. They smile at each other across the length of the pianos as one follows the other's lead and then takes it. Michel does a lot of singing and man can he scat! Their playing is full of joy, and from time to time, one of them will bubble with laughter. We are fortunate to share what feels like a private moment between two piano virtuosos.

A loud and spontaneous standing ovation brings them back for an encore, and this concert comes to an end.

It is midnight, the thought of a club and more music flits by, and is ignored as being maybe a little sacrilegious. Better to take a walk and enjoy the mood of the moment as it slowly fades into the warm night.
We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report and Photographs by
• •
Roger Humbert
for The Live Music Report

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