Cuba Culture

Bobby Carcasses and Havana Jazz in Almendares Park

Posted April 23, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Culture.

Mike Fuller | Prensa Latina

Jazzman Bobby Carcasses and friends fill a tropical forest with sound, breathing life back into a recovering riverbank.

The notes floated over amphitheater walls, seasoning a born again park with sweet Cuban jazz on a Sunday afternoon.

I first entered Almendares park, natural boundary between Vedado and Marianao districts, in 1994 for a rock concert, but the unkempt vines and rank river had forced it into a small parking lot.

More than a decade later, the river is hardly pristine but environmental activists have cleaned it up to at least tolerate paddle boats and the park is full of people strolling, miniature golfing, horseback riding and swooshing on a skateboard ramp.

Every last Sunday at 5pm veteran jazz trumpeter and scat singer Bobby Carcasses invites guests to the amphitheater for his peña, a traditional gathering sponsored by a Cuban artist.

As a matter of fact, Eduardo del Llano, a sponsor of another peña was at Bobby´s

The host, sort of a guru of the Cuban jazz scene,  said he likes the park for its spiritual value, and hopes to continue the tradition, which has included five jam sessions since November.

The tall wiry old timer says jazz in Havana is pretty strong these days, and lists as young talent his own son and pianist Roberto Carcasses, trumpeter Yacel Manzano who studied in Berkeley and Julliard and Roberto Martinez on sax.

Another Havana veteran of this kind of music is guitarist Jorge Chicoy, seen here backing up rooky trumpeter Julio Padron . Chicoy, who has shared the stage with Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock assures he likes playing at this peña because it provides accessible entertainment for folks who may not be able to afford the much more expensive night clubs.

Padron is the new kid on the block and says he first put a trumpet to his lips at 11 years-old. Now 33, he"s played all over Europe with Chucho Valdes and Irakere, but still likes to come home to this place. Like Carcasses, he feels its spirit and has played here four times.

A special treat was a short dance number by the practically geriatric Santa Amalia dancers, a historical group of Afro-Cubans who have been moving their bodies to Havana jazz in a special way for many decades.

But a peña can be more than music, and that Sunday happening included a group of local visual artists painting a Russian Lada as part of their Rolling Gallery project.

Painter Andy Rivero says the acrylic colors have covered 14 vehicles since 2002, and the National Fine Arts Council sponsored activity is bound to continue.


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