January 2005

Jane Bunnett's Spirit of Music Bash & Fundraiser
January 16, 2005Lula LoungeToronto
Report by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
Sunday night at Lula Lounge and the place is filling fast for the 3rd annual ‘Spirit of Music’ fundraiser. Jane Bunnett and Spirits of Havana arrive on stage along with M.C. Ralph Benmergui. Jane thanks us for coming out tonight to help a “wonderful country in need of a lot of things we take for granted”. Cuba has excellent musicians and music schools, but is short on instruments and supplies. Tonight’s revenues will go towards buying new instruments and repairing old ones for the schools.

Jane Bunnett

The conguero starts the first piece, first with congas alone then adding his strong, clear voice. The other musicians join in and the audience sways to the rhythm. Jane treats us to a long flute solo, then David Virelles plays an interesting piano solo ending with a glissando like a whirl of whipped cream on pie.

Next, some Cuban rap ”Joyful Noise” gets everyone into the groove. Nidia Moya from Santa Clara, Cuba, Madagascar Slim and Donné Robert join in on the following piece featuring a guitar solo from Slim.

”Ron con Ron” features a new batch of musicians. Luis Cordero takes over on the congas, David Virelles makes room for Luis Guerra on the piano bench, Luicito arrives with his sax, and Alexis Baro with his trumpet. It’s a fun piece, a let it all out you can’t help but dance along piece, but it’s also complex music. Alexis Baro is a man of serious talent.

Ross Porter introduces Molly Johnson, another Canadian musician and philanthropist with a strong sense of community. One of her own special causes has been helping people living with AIDS/HIV.

With Jane Bunnet and the Spirits of Havana, Molly sings "It Must Have Been Moonglow" and a very soulful, almost brooding rendition of "Body and Soul" laid over a deep matrix of bass, congas, drums, piano and flute. Of course, given the calibre of these musicians, there are also some very fitting and enjoyable instrumental solos.

Then it's time for the fund raising auction. There are 27 items, everything from DVD and CD sets to a painting by Howard Ross, framed photos and massages. As Ralph Benmergui points out, how much you want the items yourself is not really the point(you can give them away next year as Hannukah gifts he suggests). Lots of joking ensues — was that a bid or a heckle? Jane Bunnett presents her drawing of Ramon, a Cuban music student in need of supplies and mimics playing the violin. Humour, but with a serious purpose underneath.

All items are sold and it's back to the music. Something a little different, Portuguese fado—songs of pain and suffering—sensitively sung and played by a duo named Quinze.

Jane Bunnett and her band come back on stage, this time with Hilario Duran on piano. The duet that Hilario Duran and Jane perform in this second set is one of the highlights of the evening for me. Lyrical, lush piano introduces the piece and briefly takes on a bluesy sound before developing into a montuno enriched with jazz harmonies. Jane comes in on soprano sax with a melodic motif. She then moves into uncharted territory with an improvisational daring all her own. She releases a complex multitude of notes and sounds, even screeches, and the rhythm drives relentlessly on. Hilario is smiling and inspiring her to greater heights. The synthesis of their playing is complete. I flash back to Steve Lacy and Danilo Perez at Harbourfront in 1998. But this is wilder, more exhilirating. We are led back to the head. Rich harmonies flow from the piano, someone shouts “yes!” and we return through a tinge of blue to an almost classical end. Jazz at its best—a journey.

A tough act to follow. Yet, the evening climaxes with a crowd of musicians playing a timba-mambo. A dancing Nidia Moya is joined by another dancer and some of the musicians join in the movement.

We are thanked for coming, for our generosity, but I think to myself, it’s really the musicians, the organisers and all of the contributors who should be thanked for their efforts, their initiative and their generosity. The audience may have benefited others but we also had a great time. To put things in perspective, the $20 concert-only entrance fee is about twice the monthly salary of many Cubans, or a little over twice the price of a set of guitar strings. With a total take of $12,000, the evening was a success.

Molly Johnson

Hilario Duran
If you would like to donate money to this worthy cause, please send a cheque payable to C.C.F.A. (that's the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association) and mail it to:
Jane Bunnett
26 Sorauren Ave
Toronto, ON
M6R 2C6
If you want to donate an instrument, you can drop it off at the same address. It would probably be best to first email Jane at janeb@janebunnett.com to make arrangements for the drop off or, in some cases, someone may be able to pick up the donation.
Alternatively, if you live in the maritimes, there is an organization called Los primos in Halifax that collects instruments for schools in Cuba. They have hand delivered 265 of them so far. You can email Jeff at losprimos@eastlink.ca for details.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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