Latin Grammy Awards to cubans musicians Omara Portuondo and Chucho Valdes –

Prensa Latina: The Cuban bolero singer made history by not only being the first Cuban artist from the island to appear on the telecast, but the first to win an award on the air.

Cuban diva Omara Portuondo and renowned pianist Chucho Valdes won Latin Grammy awards during the 10th Latin Grammy Awards ceremony held on Thursday night at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Omara, who came to renewed international attention with the Buena Vista Social Club, won the award for Best Contemporary Tropical Album for her recording ‘Gracias’ (Thank You), which honored her 60 years in music. ‘Gracias’ recently won – shared with the DVD ‘Aquí el que baila gana’ by Los Van Van – the top award of the Cubadisco 2009 International Music Fair held last May in Havana.

The Cuban bolero singer made history by not only being the first Cuban artist from the island to appear on the telecast, but the first to win an award on the air.

Meanwhile, Chucho Valdes, a pianist, instrumentalist and composer who already had four Grammy Awards and who is regarded by specialists as one of the top four jazz players of the world, won the Grammy in the category of Best Latin Jazz Album. On this occasion, he shared the award with his father Bebo Valdes with the album ‘Juntos para siempre’ (Together Forever).

Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 were the big winners of the night as they won all five of the awards for which they were nominated: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Urban Album, Best Alternative Song, and Best Short Form Video, all from their album ‘Los de atras vienen conmigo’ (Those from behind are coming with me). Frontman Rene Perez paid tribute to recently deceased Argentine folk star Mercedes Sosa, whose album Cantora 1 won the prize for Best Folk. – Cuba vacation rental

Chucho Valdes Presents New Band


Ritual for the new band Akokan Ire

Ritual for the new band Akokan Ire

HAVANA TIMES, February 14 – Chucho Valdes’ opening night concert of Jazz Plaza 2009 was a sell out not long after tickets went on sale earlier in the week. By the time the show began a couple hundred more lucky people were able to squeeze into the Mella Theater to fill the aisles. The important thing was being there even if it was standing room only or sitting on the floor.

Chucho, with his charismatic stage presence, brought us his latest project, a new band called Akokan Ire, made up of a constellation of younger jazz talents, with a bass, drums, conga, chequere, four-piece brass section, timbales and the band leader on piano.

It was an exciting show where the good energy allowed the music to connect with the audience as if it was an act of magic. Maybe it had to do with the white powder used at the beginning of the band’s first ever performance, to purify the environment, the piano and Chucho himself. Even though we already knew he needs nothing to get his fans dreaming.

A highlight of the new group was the vigorous conga interpretations by Yaroldi Abreu that shook the theater more than once. At some points in the concert, Akonkan Ire reminded us of the sound of Irakere, the legendary group also led by Chucho, to which this festival is dedicated.

The songs included El planeta de Mingus (a tribute to Charles Mingus); a new version of Estela va a estallar; A hundred years of youth, a danzon featuring a solo by Alexander Abreu that drew a big applause, two lovely pieces, La margarita (a tribute to Jorge Varona, of Irakere) played by German Velasco on sax and Una noche en Cocosolo with the smooth trumpeting of Maikel Gonzalez.

Maikel Gonzalez with Akokan Ire

Maikel Gonzalez with Akokan Ire

There is no doubt that the climax came with the three female voices that took the stage: Mayra Caridad Valdes, Beatriz Marquez and Omara Portuondo, each with their very different personal style that thoroughly delighted an audience that gave them a long standing ovation.

Audience at Akokan Ire Premiere

Audience at Akokan Ire Premiere

Omara brought to mind her sister Haydee Portuondo, Moraima Secada, and the great Elena Burke, with her formidable interpretation of Summertime, playing with the styles of the singers “who are no longer physically here, but are still with us.”

Omara Portuondo at Jazz Plaza 2009

Omara Portuondo at Jazz Plaza 2009

It was a night of African chequeres, drums, magic voices, Yoruba chants, brass that floated in the air, a piano that vibrated even the most insensitive hearts and proof that Chucho isn’t lying when he says: “music is life.”

Mella Theater Jazz Plaza Opening Night

Mella Theater Jazz Plaza Opening Night

The Jazz Plaza 2009 festival continues through Sunday February 15. If you are in Cuba or just want to see who’s playing the full program can be seen at:

Havana Jazz Plaza Coming Soon

HAVANA TIMES, January 21- Good Jazz takes over Havana stages with the 25th Jazz Plaza Festival set for February 12-15. The event brings to Cuba musicians and audiences from numerous countries and coincides this year with the opening days of the 2009 International Book Fair.

“What I like about the Havana Jazz Plaza is that it’s a non-commercial festival where Cuban music lovers of all ages attend due to the low ticket prices,” said Stephen from France who attended last years’ festival.

Founded 25 years ago, Jazz Plaza started as a small local event and with the years it gained in popularity until it became Cuba’s most important international jazz festival.

The event gives foreign musicians the chance to perform in concert and jam with Cuban artists. It also gives islanders a chance to hear what’s being played around the world.

Chucho Valdes

CHUCHO VALDES, photo by Caridad

The president of the Jazz Plaza organizing committee is pianist Chucho Valdes, a five-time winner of a Latin Grammy Award.

In 1979, a series of successful concerts by Bobby Carcasses, one of Cuba’s jazz masters, and other musicians led to the first festival held at the Casa de la Cultura of the Havana municipality of Plaza (from which the event took its name).

Over the years the festival has seen the participation of renowned international artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Carmen McCrae and Charlie Haden (US) Michel Lengrand (France), Ronnie Scott (Great Britain), Ivan Lins and Flora Purim (Brazil) and Hugh Fraser (Canada).

Last year’s Jazz Plaza included musicians from Argentina, Spain, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Austria, South Africa, the US, Brazil, Mexico and Sweden. Washington’s travel ban on Cuba has made it extremely hard for US jazz musicians to participate.

Besides the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza, the festival now also takes place at several Havana theaters and concert halls including the Amadeo Roldan, Mella, Karl Marx, Bellas Artes and America Theaters.

Parallel photography expositions, workshops, tributes and conferences accompany the event.

The Cuban Music Chucho Valdés at the VI Panama Festival Jazz 2009

The sixth edition of the Panama Jazz Festival 2009 was opened last 12th of January in installations belonging to the Panama Canal.

About 20 halls of the Ascanio Arosemena Auditorium and Training Centre are at disposal for this event that will receive students and teachers who take part in different musical institutions, indicated.

The participation of several international musicians, such as the Cuban Chucho Valdés, the US Wayne Shorter and the Panamian Danilo Pérez, considered all of them legends of jazz, are expected to take part in the Festival.

The installations of the inter ocean way will also receive the famous quintet of the Puerto Rican saxophonist Marco Pignataro as well as a recital of the US pianist Edna Golandsky.

The Ascanio Arosemena centre, as well as school for students, will be the stage of concerts and workshops given by the musicians who take part in this international event.

The sixth edition of the Panama Jazz festival 2009 will be held for six days, from the 12 until the 17 of January. These events started in 2003 and since that moment on it has consolidated as one of the most important cultural events of the hemisphere.

The festival also has concerts in the historic centre of the Panama capital and at the Anayansi theatre of the Atlapa Conventions Centre, located next to the shore of the Panama Bay.

The organisers expect to have over 16,000 spectators, which is the number of public who attended last year edition.