What Have We Done So Far

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Chucho Valdés, Pedrito Martínez & Wynton Marsalis (Jazz at Lincoln Center)


The geographic distance between New Orleans and Havana can be measured in miles. Musically, talk of distances can be deceiving.

Cuban pianist and composer Jesus “Chucho” Valdés (pictured) likes to illustrate the point with an elegant sleight of hand; he begins by playing Scott Joplin’s classic “The Entertainer” as a ragtime, and then subtly, imperceptibly at first, he gives the music a Caribbean lilt.
“If you change a rhythmic cell, it’s a danzón,” says Valdés.

“Music is like a language: you change a comma, and it means something else. Here, you change an accent, and you are no longer in New Orleans; you are in Havana. ”

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New Jazz Frontiers (Jazz at Lincoln Center)


“Jazz is dead” is one of the evergreens in jazz literature. Yet for all the challenges, real and perceived facing jazz in the cultural marketplace, the real story for the past few decades has been the triumph of jazz.

Once a novelty (and a U.S. diplomatic tool) around the globe, jazz has become a lingua franca. Ambassadors such as Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck took jazz in seemingly every direction, defying language barriers and Cold War borders, fostering generations of fans and musicians.

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Paquito D'Rivera: Around The Americas (Jazz at Lincoln Center)


Paquito D’Rivera has been tweaking Mozart for awhile.

Even as he was dazzling audiences in New York as a member of the Afro-Cuban jazz-rock group Irakere in the summer of 1978, invoking the spirits of the Orishas, Monk, and Charlie Parker, D’Rivera was also leading the band on a piece he called “Adagio on a Mozart Theme.” It was his arrangement of the lovely Adagio from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622.”
But where Mozart was stately, letting his emotions unfold with an almost somber, measured elegance; D’Rivera was sunny tropical, full of joy and bursting with humor — and of course, as jazz musicians have been known to do, he played the tune and then he improvised.
Some, no doubt, must have thought of it as some sort of musical prank. It wasn’t.

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