Jazz Band from New Orleans inspires audience in Cuba

Posted: 24-Feb-16 17:15

With relaxed diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, it's creating new freedom for some to travel to the island nation and experience a sharing of cultural traditions. Not long ago the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans visited Cuba as part of an effort to bring a unique musical sound to the region, but they received much more in response.

Jazz Band from New Orleans inspires audience in Cuba

It has been 60 years since Charlie Gabriel had his first opportunity to visit Cuba. Now 83 years old, Gabriel recounted his memory to author Elizabeth Shockman, with an article featured in Public Radio International in February.

Gabriel and a friend planned to go to Cuba in 1956 but he never made the trip. According to Gabriel:

“We made a big preparation to come, and at the last minute, I got a job and said, well, look baby, I don’t think I’m gonna make it.’”

Decades passed, but Shockman reports that he never gave up the desire to go there. In Gabriel words:

“It was my dream to get to Cuba before I leave this universe.”

Playing jazz since the age of 11, the saxophonist recently joined six other Preservation Hall Jazz Band members, playing at an outdoor concert in Havana. The New Orleans jazz band did what they do often in New Orleans, playing their music while passers-by joined in by marching in tune to the sounds. However, in Cuba, Gabriel told PRI the event became much, much more. Along with marching with the band, listeners started dancing alongside the band members.

“All we had to do was play the music lively and everybody started dancing. I’m playing my horn, and they get right inside the band…They were knocking me down. They didn’t know, they were just doing what they felt. So I just enjoyed it. I really did.”

As the New Orleans jazz band recently paid a visit to Cuba, a Cuban jazz pianist has also visited the City of New Orleans. Ernan Lopez-Nussa, a well-known pianist from Cuba, made his own visit to the space where Presentation Hall performs at home. During that visit, a New Orleans jazz member remarked that Lopez-Nussa’s music sounded a lot like ragtime, though the Cuban pianist called it danzon.

In a friendly show of support between the two countries, Lopez-Nussa later composed a musical piece, co-headlining it with the New Orleans band at Teatro Mella in Havana to a roaring ovation from the crowd.

As reported by Shockman, Gabriel is very happy to have now finally made the trip to Cuba after all these years and adds:

“This journey, it’s been a wonderful experience and I really completed my dream.”


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