Jazz and music aficionados take note: for the first time in eight years, Americans can legally attend Cuba’s acclaimed Havana International Jazz Festival. Insight Cuba, the leading provider of U.S. authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba, and JazzTimes, America’s preeminent jazz magazine, have partnered to offer guests an all-access pass to the 27th annual event, which draws jazz legends and culture hounds from across the globe. The exclusive six-day/five-night December 14-19 tour will provide the rare opportunity to rub elbows with jazz greats and interact with the people who inspire each note.
The world-renowned Havana International Jazz Festival, originally organized by master jazz musicians including Chucho Valdes, and sponsored by the Instituto Cubano de la Música, will run December 15-18. A lively celebration of music and culture, the festival began as a loosely organized event in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses and other jazz musicians played an outdoor show at Casa de la Cultura in Havana. The following year, other famous musicians attended including Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charlie Haden, and Jack DeJohnette. Since then, many of the world’s most talented jazz musicians, including Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Herbie Hancock and Larry Coryell, have come to be part of Havana’s most sought after event. And now Americans can get a front row seat to the action.
Participants in the Insight Cuba/JazzTimes program will get a rare inside look at the thriving Cuban art and jazz scene. In addition to being special guests at the festival’s many concerts, events and smaller scale jam sessions, they will also enjoy authentic people-to-people experiences, meeting with local Cuban residents and visiting art studios to hear about life in Cuba today. Evenings will be spent at some of the top jazz clubs in Cuba like La Zorra y el Cuervo or Jazz Café where Cuba’s best musicians perform live in a most intimate setting and artists come to relax after their own performances around town.
“We’re excited to be part of this program,” said Lee Mergner, publisher of JazzTimes. “This trip offers a unique opportunity for American jazz fans who may have heard Cuban jazz on recordings or seen it on films, but now can experience the electricity and vibrancy of the music and artists live.”
According to Arturo Delgado, manager of the La Zorra y El Cuervo jazz nightclub, the city’s streets and clubs fill up with jazz fans during the Havana International Jazz Festival. “You can feel that something good is happening,” he told JazzTimes’ Lee Mergner. “At midnight when the artists finish their performances in the theaters, most of them come here. During the festival we have here two different groups of musicians every night. I think that what makes the festival unique—not only the meeting of friends from different countries, but also the opportunity they have to play together.”
Erica von Kleist, an American jazz saxophonist and flautist, performed at the festival in 2000 and recently returned to Cuba as part of a program to bring musical instruments to young music students there. In an article on jazztimes.com, Von Kleist said that American jazz fans can learn so much about music and culture from traveling to Cuba. “They can hear the roots of jazz in its most raw and unspoiled form,” she explained. “So much of jazz comes from Cuban music. Cuba and New Orleans are so closely intertwined when it comes to the culture and history. To be able to hear the roots of jazz, the rhythms and the drums, where the vibrancy of jazz comes from—that’s what you can see in Cuban art and music. That’s what a jazz fan would come away with.”
“When we last offered a trip to the Havana International Jazz Festival in 2002, it was our most popular program ever, with over 300 Americans attending,” said Tom Popper, director of Insight Cuba. “We all had to pinch ourselves! Being in Cuba surrounded by some of the most impassioned musicians and performances was simply incredible.”
Insight Cuba’s December 14-19 Havana International Jazz Festival program includes:
• All meals
• Four or five-star accommodations in Havana
• Days full of guided activities with a Cuban host
• All entrance fees to scheduled activities and events
• All in-country ground transportation, and transfers
• Travel insurance
Prices start at $2,695 per person double occupancy. For more information on the Jazz Festival program and other Insight Cuba travel programs, visit their website or call 1-800-450-CUBA (2822).
Insight Cuba is a leading expert in Cuba travel, and a division of Cross-Cultural Solutions, an independent not-for-profit organization and leader in international volunteering and people-to-people cultural exchange with over 25,000 alumni since its inception in 1995. Insight Cuba has developed in-depth programs in Cuba, encompassing both spontaneous and planned activities. These immersive, unforgettable experiences have helped make Insight Cuba the largest, most highly regarded provider of specific-licensed people-to-people cultural travel to Cuba.
JazzTimes is America’s preeminent jazz magazine providing irreverent, uncompromising and often provocative coverage of the American jazz scene. Relying on an award-winning editorial staff, JazzTimes encompasses special themes, directories, comprehensive news reports and an extensive music review section. JazzTimes is a must-read for the jazz enthusiast. On the web at www.jazztimes.com