Cuba, Haiti And A History In Music

For more than 20 years, dear friend and former colleague from The Miami Herald, photographer Carl Juste has been working on Havana-Haiti, an extraordinary project exploring the connections between Cuban and Haitian history and culture.
He has assembled a terrific group of photographers and writers, each addressing a different issue –from labor and religion, to history and hope.
It will be a privilege to be part of the project and contribute an essay about the cross-pollination between the Cuban and Haitian musical traditions.
One of the artists we are focusing on to tell that part of the story is pianist and composer Omar Sosa, from Camagüey, Cuba. His work explores the culture of the African diaspora and the seemingly endless permutations and combinations of African-rooted musical traditions.
Sosa is currently crowdfunding a sextet project featuring saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart and singers and players from both the Santeria and Vodou traditions.
The video is from his Transparent Water project with Seckou Keita.
(Sosa and Keita will be presenting Transparent Water in Miami in March.)

A Passion For the Piano, a Story of Perseverance and Chucho Valdés in a New Cuban Film


Esteban (Reynaldo Guanche) conversing with his great love, the piano.

Artburst Miami, June, 2017

Esteban, the debut of Cuban director Jonal Cosculluela being premiered at The Miami Light Project tells the story of a 9 year old, living in Havana with his mother, who’s raising him as a single parent, and his perseverance following his dream of becoming a musician. The challenges seem overwhelming. Esteban and his mother struggle to make ends meet – his estranged father offers little, and unreliable, support; Esteban has to help out selling their home-made beauty products door to door; his school snack is a bun and a bottle of water with sugar. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and Esteban falls in love with the piano.
Convincing a cranky teacher to give him lessons, scamming enough money to pay for them, and getting his mother to go along are just bumps on the road. He has to learn to play the piano.

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Chano Dominguez on an off night offers an unexpected treat


VALENCIA. Pianist Chano Dominguez is in Valencia rehearsing a classical piece he wrote for brass quintet and piano for a July concert.(He’s working with Spanish Brass) But Chano, who has been living in the US for the past three years, decided he didn’t want to hang out at his hotel in the evenings so, without fanfare, he scheduled two nights of solo piano at Cafe Mercedes, an intimate club that feels like a living room. “I just want to play and see some friends,” he said in a sidewalk conversation before the show. (And I mean intimate, Club Mercedes by my rough count seats 60 people. Maybe)

Wednesday, playing on a stand up piano (yes, there was a concert piano somewhere behind the curtain but could not be used. Don’t ask.) he revisited “Marcel,” a piece for his youngest son, some Monk, a restless “My One and Only Love” and then invited Uruguayan violinist Federico Nathan (whom he had met the day before) to join him for three pieces that covered a lot of ground, from “I Got Rhythm” and “Footprints” to some Bartokian sidetrips.

Chano has integrated elements of flamenco and jazz in such an organic way that, at this point, discussing the parts means missing the whole. He has an unromantic, percussive attack and his single note runs sound more classical technique than bop. But what you really notice in his versions of standards is the pulse, an underlying beat that suggests flamenco and makes it all feel both familiar and different.

The highlight was the encore however, a mournful solo piano version of McCoy Tyner’s “Search for Peace,” which Chano turned into a meditation on the violence in Manchester. “I have two teenagers who go to those kind of concerts,” he said when introducing the song. He ended the piece ambiguously, fittingly unresolved.