Afro-Cuban Jazz Celebration at Lincoln Center

Classic Arts Features   Afro-Cuban Jazz Celebration at Lincoln Center
Jazz at Lincoln Center pays homage to the heritage of Latin jazz greats in two Afro-Cuban Jazz Celebrations: Jazz Meets Clave featuring the JALC Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Oct. 21 _23, and pianist Chucho Vald_s Oct. 22 & 23.


In Jazz Meets Clave, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bassist Carlos Henriquez explains that the rhythm in this music spans many styles. "Clave is just an ingredient of a certain style of music," he says. "In Latin music we have a clave. African music has its own clave. Afro-Cuban music has its clave. Rock 'n' roll has its own clave. R&B has its own clave. Jazz has its own clave in the swing pattern. Clave is a rhythm. It distinguishes the style of that music. During the show, we're going to show the differences in clave."

The godfather of Afro-Cuban music, Mario Bauza, and his fellow countrymen Machito, Chano Pozo, and Cachao were the early innovators who introduced Latin musicians to American jazz, and at the same time taught the great jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker how to play the intricate polyrhythms of Cuba.

Henriquez explains that clave can be played with one person or it can be played with an orchestra. "If we put an Afro-Cuban clave behind a jazz rhythm section, when that clave starts playing, those who know are going to say 'oh man, that's a 2/3 clave from Cuba.' It's an authentication to the style of music.

"The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members are veterans at the clave because we were able to collaborate with Yacub Addy and his African group from Ghana and also with Chano Dominguez and his flamenco dancers from Spain. We understand how important clave is to that country's music.

"Mario Bauza and the other pioneers bridge Latin music and jazz; Mario played in Cab Calloway's band and Dizzy Gillespie played in that band, too. So they became very good friends and Dizzy became familiar with what the music was. After that, it was a matter of creating your own ingredient to make your own soup. You have to use some type of water base to create a soup; without water, you don't have soup," says master music chef Henriquez.

Meanwhile, in The Allen Room during the Afro-Cuban Jazz Celebration, Chucho Vald_s, joined by the award-winning Afro-Cuban Messengers, adds to the excitement of the weekend event. Vald_s is a true musical statesman, the living embodiment of the history of Afro-Cuban jazz and the major representative of the current state of the art. Most importantly, he is also a straight-ahead jazz pianist unlike any other, one who can create an entire orchestra all by himself at the keyboard. His style is full of fiery clave rhythms, heart-stopping montuno passages, and heart-stirring, romantic boleros.

So come prepared for some serious rhythms at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro-Cuban Jazz Celebration with Chucho Vald_s, plus the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by trumpeter and Music Director Wynton Marsalis.

"Wynton has something in him that is completely Hispanic or Cuban," says Henriquez. "He's from New Orleans, so he has that creole in him. He loves Latin music because when he was a young musician in New York City he was called to play a lot of Latin gigs. Back in those days there was a strong Latin vibe in the city.

"We're playing in Mexico the week before we do this gig at Jazz at Lincoln Center," Henriquez concludes. "The guys are going to be pumped up. It's going to be great!" There are pre-concert talks each night at 7pm. For more information, visit

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