Jazz Notes: Cubana Jazz, Nona at Met, Parker’s Mayfield Project

Ron Scott | 2/27/2020, midnight
The sound of the Cuban influence in jazz began in 1933, when drummer and bandleader Chick Webb hired Cuban trumpeter ...
Nona Hendryx Yaw Mfoni photo

The sound of the Cuban influence in jazz began in 1933, when drummer and bandleader Chick Webb hired Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauza. That sound fermented into another genre of music under the collaborations of Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop and Bauza’s Cuban infusion become cubop, in the 1940s that blossomed into Latin jazz, or Afro Cuban jazz as Dizzy referred to the sound.

The swing of Afro Cuban jazz has grown into a most distinctive music form that continues to flourish 80 years later. As part of its 25th Anniversary Celebrations, the most absorbing little jazz club in all of Manhattan, the Jazz Gallery (1160 Broadway) will kick off “The Jazz Cubano Series” with the Osmany Paredes Quartet, curated by pianist and composer David Virelles, on Feb. 29.

Pianist, composer, and arranger Osmany Paredes began his career on classical piano in his hometown of Santa Clara, Cuba. He eventually joined the jazz group of Bobby Carcassés (a Cuban jazz legend and co-founder of the Havana Jazz Festival). He will be joined by a talented group of musicians; bassist Yunior Terry; congas & percussion Yusnier Sanchez, and drummer & timbale Keisel Jimenez. These noted musicians are well known in their homeland and are now earning reputations on the NYC jazz scene.

“When the Jazz Gallery’s artistic director Rio Sakairi approached me to curate their new installment series Jazz Cubano, I accepted immediately. This occasion represents an incredible opportunity to showcase some of Cuba’s thriving musical talent, ranging from legendary figures such as the maestro Hilario Durán and Xiomara Laugart, to younger generations of musicians,” said Virelles. “It will also give us another chance to honor the long legacy of ancestral brotherhood/sisterhood between Cuban musicians and luminaries of this improvisational African American form, a connection that has produced some of the most beautiful music ever created.” 

For the 2020 edition of the Jazz Cubano, pianist and ECM recording artist Virelles has curated a 10-concert series showcasing the Cuban music scene.

Afrofuturism is the new relevant topic being discussed from here to South Africa, from grassroots to culturally hip and intellectuals, who must be in the know. Simply put it is the intersection of African diaspora culture with science and philosophy of history. The film “Black Panther” is an example, although the science fiction novels by Octavia Butler says it all.

When indulging in conversation of Afrofuturism the pioneer from the late 1940s must be prominently mentioned pianist, composer, bandleader and poet Sun Ra.

Picture a Black man Herman Poole Blount, born in Alabama, eventually moves to Chicago where he becomes part of that jazz scene and changes his name to Sun Ra (after Ra, the Egyptian god of the Sun). He called his ensemble “The Arkestra.” He was on a mission of peace from another planet, Saturn, he often stated with conviction. The Arkestra includes dancers and singers all dressed in ancient Egyptian costumes with a space age flair. It was his outrageous performance and eclectic music from avant-garde to ragtime, and African rhythms that hypnotized audiences.