Posted by Cilla Utne
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege to lead a trip to Cuba blues guitar Maestro Taj Mahal and friends. It was a musical and photographic intercultural experience that the 40 travelers will never forget! We are very excited to be running a similar, yet more intimate trip to the Havana Jazz Festival this January, hosted by Taj’s good friend on his quartet, wind instrumentalist and jazz master Roger Glenn.
We had a little chat with Roger about his connection to Cuba, its’ people and music. Here is what he had to say…..
CCJ: What is your invitation for people traveling with you on this extraordinary journey?
RG: A great opportunity to travel to Cuba and also attend the Havana Jazz Festival with myself (a 3rd-generation jazz master), you’ll see and hear the mutual connections of the roots of Afro Cuban music, and American Jazz.
CCJ: What are your favorite places of music in Havana?
RG: “La Zorra Y El Cuervo, which is the club around the corner from the Nacional Hotel, every street corner and restaurants have musicians performing, the Corner Cafe where we jammed with Taj and the locals, and every day/night at the Nacional garden terrace. Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana was an amazing place not only for their different music venues within but all the art installations as well. We can carry-on about Jazz all day and into the night. There is a lot of history to be shared, and this being my 5th trip to Cuba – since the 1980s – I’ve an understanding of the people, culture, music, dance which I’m all very passionate about.”
CCJ: What will the travelers have the honor of learning directly from you during this trip? With whom have you played there, and with whom might you be playing?
RG: “I’ll share my sense of the history of Afro Cuban music, and the religious influence of Santeria in the music which also encompasses the dance. I look forward to sharing my observations on how their lifestyle has transitioned from the 1980s to today. In Matanzas we’ll talk about the history of the dock workers and the origins of Rhumba. Hopefully we will get to meet up with Cuban maestro Bobby Carcasses, with whom I recorded with on our last trip in 2016 for his “Blues con Montuno” album.”
“In Matanzas we’ll talk about the history of the dock workers and the origins of Rhumba.”
CCJ: What would you say to anybody who might be hesitating going to Cuba for political reasons?
RG: “While we have the advantage to go to Cuba right now, you can see with your own eyes there are no threats to American people. We’re the only country that has this embargo and the rest of the world goes there as a summer resort.
CCJ: What do you love about the Cuban people in general, and about Cuban musicians in particular?
RG: “The Cuban people are so very warm and welcoming wherever you go. The musicians that I’ve sat in with and recorded with are amazing players whether you are on the street corner or in the recording studio or club. The student musicians we’ve met are so dedicated to the music, they are phenomenal musicians with less distractions than many young students have here in the US.”
CCJ: Tell us about the Cuban food?
RG: “I like the Cuban sandwich as Sloppy Joe’s, and Beth (Roger’s wife) loved the chicken dinner at El Aljibe, served family style we had the first night at the open air restaurant, and the mixed-grill lunch we had in Cojimar.”
CCJ: What else would you like to tell people who have not yet been to Cuba, but who might be considering going on this trip?
RG: “Imagine a warm tropical vacation in January filled with music, new cultural experience, great accommodations, traveling with a group of Jazz lovers!”
If you, or anybody you know is interested in joining us for this intimate immersive music journey to Cuba with Roger Glenn as your private host, please register directly at the Havana Jazz Fest Journey Page. Space is limited to 15 people and we are currently (Sept 25) about two thirds full.
If you have questions about the trip. please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.