Cuba’s influence on New Orleans music

Havana Vieja at night – Credit Gabriel Rodríguez

It’s been said that Cuba and New Orleans are more than musical cousins; they are more like twins and equally responsible for much of what we call jazz.  And I’ve often heard New Orleans described by its multi-cultural natives as being not a Southern city, but a Caribbean city.

Cuba and New Orleans historically shared the same trade routes, and cultural exchanges and mutual musical influences have been traced dating back to the early 1800s.

In the nineteenth century, the Cuban contradance known as the habanera (“Havana-style dance”) gained international popularity.  In the US, probably the best-known example of the habanera style is from Bizet’s opera Carmen:

The first written music to be rhythmically based on an African motif, the habanera was a natural rhythm for the talented New Orleans musical community to incorporate into their works.

New Orleans musicians like Louis Armstrong and Professor Longhair used habanera rhythms in their compositions, and Jelly Roll Morton considered the habanera (which he called the “Spanish tinge”) to be an essential ingredient of jazz.

You can still hear the Cuban habanera in the second-line of New Orleans brass bands and in the unique style of R&B produced in the Crescent City.

Listen for habanera and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursday afternoons at 2pm PST 88.5 KPLU or online at

Latin Jazz nominees for tonight’s Latin Grammy Awards

Tania Maria Credit: Bruno Bollaert, volume12

The 13th Annual Latin Grammy Awards will  air live  in the United States on the Univision Network  from 8–11 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. Central) tonight.

Here are the nominiees for the Best Latin Jazz Album:

Jerry González y El Comando De La Clave:  best known for his ground-breaking Fort Apache Band, Jerry’s other projects include a big band and Los Piratas del Flamenco.

Chuchito Valdes Live in Chicago:  yes, the son of Chucho Valdes and the grandson of Bebo Valdes.  Talent and energy run in the family.

Tania Maria–Tempo:  pianist, singer, composer, bandleader.  Her specialty is a blend of samba, bossa nova, Afro-Latin, Pop and Jazz fusion.

Poncho Sanchez and Terence Blanchard–Chano y Dizzy:  a tribute to the musical collaboration of American trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo.

Arturo Sandoval–Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You):  another loving tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, mentor to so many musicians and supporter of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Two other nominees to watch, in the Best Instrumental Album category:

Miguel Zenón–Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook:  a beautiful collection of songs from Zenón’s ancestors, beloved by generations of Puerto Ricans.

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian–Further Explorations:  the trio “further explores” the music of Bill Evans.

Poncho Sanchez to receive Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

Latin jazz bandleader and conguero player Poncho Sanchez was among the list of individuals who will receive  The Latin Recording Academy®’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The list of winners, which also includes Luz Casal, Leo Dan, Rita Moreno, Milton Nascimento, Daniela Romo, and Toquinho, was announced last Thursday.

This year’s exceptional group of honorees not only beautifully represent our diverse music communities but exemplify the meaning of being a true pioneer of one’s craft as well as being internationally recognized within their respective musical genres. We continue the privilege of honoring and celebrating these iconic individuals whose contributions and accomplishments continue to leave an indelible legacy in the world of Latin music and will continue to inspire future generations of musicians and music fans for many years.” – Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy


Lifetime Achievement Awards: This Special Award is presented by vote of The Latin Recording Academy’s Trustees to performers who have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording during their careers. Influenced by Latin jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, Mexican-American conguero, Latin jazz bandleader and salsa singer Poncho Sánchez is considered one of the top percussionists of all time. Self-taught at a young age to play guitar, flute, drums, and timbales, it was the congas that captured his heart. In 1975 he quickly became a member of famed vibraphonist Cal Tjader’s ensemble until 1982. His career has lasted more than three decades and includes more than 30 albums, numerous musical collaborations and a GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Performance in 1999. His self-described rhythmic style blends the harmonic sophistication of jazz with American standards and the flavor of Latin American music. Ever the consummate artist, he continues performing in concert halls and local jazz festivals throughout the world.

To read the complete release by the Latin Recording Academy, visit their website by clicking here.

Be an artist for Terence Blanchard

Grammy winner Terence Blanchard, in partnership with Creative Allies, is running a contest where artists can submit original artwork that will be used as poster art for the trumpeter.

The contest asks artists to design their artwork by using the style of Reid Miles as  inspiration. Reid Miles was the legendary designer of over 500 LP covers for Blue Note Records.

Artists are asked to use album covers like these as inspiration for their submissions.

The winner of the contest will be chosen by Terence Blanchard and will receive a $500 prize. Other prizes include the Editors’ Choice (chosen by Creative Allies), awarding a $100 credit to the Creative Allies store, and the Fan Favorite, determined by online voting.

Other information about the contest:

Suggested Theme & Style

If Terence Blanchard’s Brand was a:

• Color, it would be Blue, Brown, Black
• Car, it would be a Porsche and a Ferrari, both
• Type of Architecture, it would be Modern
• Flower, it would be a Rose or a Tulip
• Era, it would be the 60’s
• Cat, it would be a Panther
• Designer, it would be Hugo Boss
• Spirit, it would be Accurate vs. Wishful

Things You Need To Include

  • The words “Terence Blanchard”
  • Use of Terence’s logo is completely optional. Feel free to riff on the logo design or to not use the logo at all.

Things You Should Avoid

  • Respect copyright. DO NOT submit copyrighted work.
  • DO NOT use stock images or clip art.
  • DO NOT use photos that aren’t provided (Photos are not required).

The due date for submitting art is October 11, 2012. You can find more information on the contest and see some artwork that has already been submitted by clicking here.


Trumpeter Terence Blanchard finishes opera set to debut next June

Jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard tweeted this afternoon that he had just finished the writing of a new opera called Champion. The work is set to premier June 15-30 2013 at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

This is from Blanchard’s Facebook page this afternoon:

Just finished writing my first Opera (Champion). It’s been an amazing journey. A very emotional one as well. I grew hearing Opera in the house because of my dad, who was a big lover of the music. Now to be at this point in my life being involved in this project makes me miss him more. This story is one of triumph and strength. I’m very thankful to Opera St Louis for giving me this chance to do something like this. We still have more to do, but the major portion is done. Gonna be a hell of a Miller night tonight. Yes yes yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The five-time Grammy winner Blanchard has been collaborating on the project with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer, and has based the story on prizefighter Emile Griffith. The work will be directed by James Robinson and will star Denyce Graves, Aubrey Allicock, Arthur Woodley, Robert Orth, and Meredith Arwady.

In addition to his work in jazz, Blanchard has scored several films for Spike Lee, and currently has original music on Broadway with his revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, and previously composed original music for the Broadway play The Motherf**ker With the Hat.