JOE LOVANO: JAZZ WITHOUT BORDERS

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The In­ter­na­ti­o­nal Jazz Pla­za 2018 Fes­ti­val in Cu­ba still ec­ho­es and so do­es all the pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, me­e­tings and sur­pri­ses that could be en­joyed du­ring Ja­nu­ary 17 to 21, full of rhythm and swing. Among the most star re­turns to Cuban sta­ges was that of Joe Lovano´s, an ac­clai­med te­nor sa­xop­ho­nist, who sin­ce 2006 had not vi­si­ted Cu­ba. The per­for­mer, who­se tech­ni­que and vast capa­city for im­pro­vi­sa­ti­on ha­ve be­en prai­sed many ti­mes in the in­ter­na­ti­o­nal are­na, de­ligh­ted mu­sic lo­vers playing along with the “Ama­deo Rol­dan” Con­ser­va­tory Symp­ho­nic Orc­hes­tra and the young Jazz Band di­rec­ted by ma­es­tro Joaquín Be­tan­court, as well as guests like Cé­sar Ló­pez and Alejandro Fal­cón. The con­cert, in the Sa­la Ave­lla­ne­da of the Te­a­tro Na­ci­o­nal de Cu­ba, was a jour­ney along dif­fe­rent ways of ap­pro­ac­hing jazz, as well as ba­llads by Ame­ri­can aut­hors, Cuban ant­ho­lo­gi­cal stan­dards such as Mam­bo No.5, and al­so com­po­si­ti­ons by this sa­xop­ho­nist. Just hours be­fo­re the pre­sen­ta­ti­on, a te­am from Ex­ce­len­ci­as spoke ex­clu­si­vely with Joe Lovano and his wi­fe Ju­di Sil­va­no, al­so an ar­tist. Ac­com­pa­ni­ed by Cuban fo­od of ex­qui­si­te tas­te such as the one co­oked at the Ha­va­na res­tau­rant Ate­li­er, the di­a­lo­gue to­ok pla­ce:

HOW WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CU­BA AND ITS MU­SI­CI­ANS BORN?

"I ha­ve co­lla­bo­ra­ted with Cu­bans for de­ca­des. Fran­cis­co Me­la has be­en part of my band sin­ce the be­gin­ning of 2004; and one of the most spe­ci­al con­nec­ti­ons has be­en Chuc­ho Val­dés. We ha­ve even a re­cord to­get­her, with ot­her gre­ats from the is­land such as Gas­tón Joya and Ya­rol­di Abreu. The relationship with

Chuc­ho has be­en a very va­lu­a­ble ex­pe­ri­en­ce. Ever sin­ce I met him in 1986, I can say that it has be­en an in­cre­di­ble trip. "Al­so, I ha­ve had a cons­tant in­terac­ti­on with mu­si­ci­ans with Cuban ro­ots ba­sed in New York (NY) or the rest of the Uni­ted Sta­tes. I ha­ve a very strong link with them. When I mo­ved to the ca­pi­tal in 1975, I was 23 years old and at that ti­me I played with Mac­hi­to (Fran­cis­co Ra­úl Gu­ti­ér­rez Gri­llo) and Ma­rio Bauzá who had re­tur­ned from a tem­po­rary re­ti­re­ment. The con­text around that ti­me allowed me to sha­re ti­me and spa­ce with many gre­at Cuban fi­gu­res, it was a grand mo­ment.

HOW MUCH DO­ES THIS IN­TERAC­TI­ON BETWE­EN SO MANY DIF­FE­RENT CULTURES PROVIDE?

"It is a fact that in NY the­re is a gre­at com­mu­nity and brot­her­ho­od of mu­si­ci­ans from all over the world. Jazz uni­fi­es. And it is al­so mul­ti-ge­ne­ra­ti­o­nal: you can in­teract with the mas­ters, with per­so­na­li­ti­es that bring in their his­tory the bag­ga­ge of ha­ving played with ot­her gre­ats like Char­lie Parker or The­lo­ni­ous Monk. When you are a part of jazz, you li­ve that con­nec­ti­on of dif­fe­rent ge­ne­ra­ti­ons, that mul­ti­cul­tu­ral em­bra­ce that fu­els you .... "In that sen­se, the Cuban ele­ment in New York sin­ce the 30s and 40s was very power­ful, es­pe­ci­ally with Dizzy Gi­lles­pie, Char­lie Parker and his zz­co­lla­bo­ra­ti­ons with Cu­bans. The gre­at thing is that the­se pe­o­ple, when they played in a band, trans­cri­bed the mu­sic in their own handw­ri­ting. The pa­per, the sco­re with which a young man like me had to play was exactly that one, the­re we­re no pho­to­co­pi­es, they we­re the ori­gi­nals! Then, being in your 20s, full of youth, and playing from the ori­gi­nal no­tes of a gre­at mu­si­ci­an, you le­arn a lot; and if you are hum­ble you get to fe­el part of that mu­si­cal le­gacy. It is an as­pect that, if you in­cor­po­ra­te it, stays with you, as well as its vi­bra­ti­ons, all the energy.

AND IS THE­RE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWE­EN CUBAN JAZZ IN THE USA AND THE ONE PRODUCED HERE IN CU­BA?

"I think all the old Cuban mas­ters like Cha­no Po­zo, Ma­rio Bauzá, who sett­led in NY we­re in­flu­en­ced by gre­at Ame­ri­can jazz mas­ters like Duke Elling­ton, Dizzy...they we­re ins­pi­red by them and they fra­med their mu­sic wit­hin a Cuban fe­e­ling. It was a gre­at fu­si­on and a lot of co­lla­bo­ra­ti­on to­ok pla­ce. Th­roug­hout the years, the mu­si­ci­ans who li­ved the­re not only trans­mit­ted their fe­e­lings but we­re al­so ins­pi­red by all the jazz players who li­ved the­re. It was a gre­at mix hap­pe­ning. "To­day, ac­cor­ding to my ex­pe­ri­en­ce with ar­tists like Gon­za­lo Ru­bal­ca­ba or Chuc­ho, they are still in­flu­en­ced by the gre­at mas­ters when they per­form the way they do, and al­so by clas­si­cal mu­sic, which they ha­ve stu­di­ed ex­ten­si­vely. "Chuc­ho on­ce told me that when he first he­ard Mc­coy Ty­ner, Her­bie Han­cock, and Chick Co­rea, it was like a re­ve­la­ti­on be­cau­se, beyond what was hap­pe­ning so­ci­ally, the mu­sic ca­me through the sound wa­ves, the ra­dio, and se­du­ced him. And they be­lon­ged to si­mi­lar ge­ne­ra­ti­ons alt­hough dis­tant in ge­o­graphy. Then they would lis­ten to him. In this mu­sic so­met­hing im­pres­si­ve hap­pens: first you are part of the au­di­en­ce and you lis­ten; then you grow as a mu­si­ci­an and the sa­me pe­o­ple you ad­mi­red are now part of your au­di­en­ce. That hap­pens and it's so­met­hing ma­gi­cal, cy­cli­cal, es­pe­ci­ally when you're young and you li­ve that kind of mys­ti­cism. And the­re are al­so ot­her oc­ca­si­ons that you get to play along with the one you ad­mi­red so much. It's all a gre­at les­son”.

YOU ON­CE SAID THAT EVERYTHING CO­MES AT THE RIGHT TI­ME IN THE RIGHT PLA­CE. YOU COULD NOT COME LAST YE­AR WHEN THE IN­TER­NA­TI­O­NAL JAZZ DAY WAS CELEBRATED IN HA­VA­NA. TO BE HERE NOW, WHAT DO­ES IT MEAN FOR YOU?

"Cu­ba is very spe­ci­al for me, for my fa­mily. It fe­els fa­mi­li­ar to be part of this con­nec­ti­on. Things ha­ve con­ti­nu­ed to grow and co­ming back here is ins­pi­ring, I know it will bring mo­re co­lla­bo­ra­ti­ons. The fact of co­ming always brings a difference for pe­o­ple who want to ex­pe­ri­en­ce, know and fe­el the is­land up clo­se. We, as mu­si­ci­ans -he and his wi­fe- had the op­por­tu­nity to come and sha­re, and we are su­re that through mu­sic we build a dif­fe­rent ex­pe­ri­en­ce. In fact we ha­ve come with ot­her fa­mily mem­bers to spend ho­li­days to­get­her taking ad­van­ta­ge of the con­text that we would play at the Fes­ti­val. It has be­en very ex­ci­ting. And to do it from mu­sic, it turns out to be pro­found. Cu­ba touc­hes us de­eply".

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