An Afro-Cuban jazz legend comes to SJW.
¡Cuba Sí! featuring Carlos D’l Puerto
An Afro-Cuban jazz legend comes to SJW.
Bassist Carlos D’l Puerto is a living legend of Afro-Cuban music. As a founding member of the seminal fusion group Irakere, whose other members included Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, and Chucho Valdés, he helped create a new genre of jazz and Cuban fusion. He’s been an essential part of the Afro-Cuban scene ever since, but he rarely appears in the U.S. For this special performance, D’l Puerto will be joined by a stellar lineup of jazz horn players and percussionists, including Cubanos Yosvany Terry and Jesus Diaz. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear a real Cuban master at work!
Carlos D’l Puerto, bass
Yosvany Terry, saxophone
JJ Kirkpatrick, trumpet
Murray Low, piano
Jesus Diaz, percussion
Josh Jones, drums
As a teenage musician growing up in Cuba, Yosvany Terry didn’t just look up to bassist Carlos D’l Puerto, a founding member of the seminal Cuban jazz ensemble Irakere. One of a relative handful of musicians allowed to travel abroad, D’l Puerto provided a link to the outside world by obtaining precious jazz recordings and videos that were otherwise unobtainable. He was also a champion of Cuban popular music, committed to bringing danzón, son, and their progeny into the nation’s famously rigorous music education system.
A schoolmate of D’l Puerto’s son, Terry spent a lot of time hanging out at their house, watching videos and listening to music. He quickly came to realize that the bassist “was not only an incredible bandleader who could play all the repertoire that Chucho wrote,” Terry says, referring to Irakere’s guiding composer, pianist Chucho Valdés. “His contribution to education has been great, creating method books and really articulating the role of the bass in Cuban music. I’ve always admired him and look for any chance to collaborate.”
Based in Finland for the past 14 years, D’l Puerto has been a leading force in spreading information about Cuban music around the world. For “¡Cuba Si!” he’s designed a program “to show the close relationship there’s always been between Cuban music and jazz,” he says. “There’s the same roots and they’ve always been connected. What happened is that after the revolution, there were a lot of problems, and until the late 1970s an absolute separation. I want to show the relationship between traditional Cuban rhythms through the eyes of jazz players.”
D’l Puerto’s foundational role in Cuba’s most important ensemble of the 1970s can’t be overstated. The group spun off of the influential Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, an experimental ensemble drawing on jazz, blues, samba, R&B, and an array of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Chucho had several different groups going in the early 1970s “with all the same musicians,” D’l Puerto says. “Sometimes with Paquito D’Rivera, sometimes me and sometimes with Cachaíto on bass. He started to think why don’t we try to create a jazz trio, but instead of a drummer, use Afro-Cuban instruments.”
Many of Irakere’s original ideas first came together with Chucho’s trio featuring D’l Puerto and percussionist Oscar Valdés II, which debuted on the 1972 album Jazz Bata. One of the tunes was “Irakere” which started to catch on and provided the name for the expanded ensemble. “We started to travel as a trio to some of the more popular European festivals,” D’l Puerto recalls. “We went with Omara Portuondo to Bulgaria and Poland. Little by little, the trio was getting some recognition. Why don’t we call some more musicians?”
Irakere paved the way for many of the new directions Latin American jazz musicians are exploring today, such as Terry’s investigation into sacred Arará music documented on his critically acclaimed 2014 album New Throned King (5Passion Records). Blending a verdant continuum of influences from West Africa, Cuba, Haiti, and beyond, the saxophonist has forged one of the most ambitious and consequent cross-cultural visions on the contemporary scene, drawing on sounds from around the world. “In Cuba everything that arrives integrates and becomes part of the culture. Jazz is the same way,” Terry says. He’s recruited a prodigious cast for this evening’s concert.
Oregon-native J.J. Kirkpatrick is a product of the same Portland music education program that launched Esperanza Spalding, and he’s a rapidly rising figure on the Los Angeles jazz scene who’s collaborated with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Tootie Heath, Terence Blanchard, Beyonce, and Louis CK. Murray Low is one of the Bay Area’s first-call Latin jazz pianists, a veteran expert who has earned multiple Grammy nominations via his work with the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet and John Santos’s Machete Ensemble. He’s also collaborated with top bands such as the Pete Escovedo Orchestra, John Calloway’s Diaspora, and Jesus Diaz y su QBA.
Diaz spends most of his time on the road these days, which makes his presence tonight a particular treat. Since settling in the Bay Area some two decades ago, the percussion virtuoso, songwriter, vocalist, and educator has been a creative catalyst on the West Coast scene, performing with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and Carlos Santana to Andy Narell, Tito Puente, and Celia Cruz. And drummer Josh Jones is a prime example of the Bay Area’s enduring passion for Afro-Cuban culture. An early product of the Berkeley Unified School District’s jazz education program, he’s toured and recorded with jazz legends, helped spark the Bay Area’s acid jazz scene in the 1990s, and collaborated with hip hop icons like Tupac Shakur, Digital Underground, and Too Short. But his most important work has taken place away from the spotlight, teaching young musicians about the intricacies of swing, funk, and clave, the essential pulse of much Afro-Cuban music.
He credits two jazz masters with helping put him on his present course. Trumpeter Don Cherry encouraged Jones to start his own band, advice he took to heart. And Steve Coleman hired him during a self-financed underground Bay Area residency in the mid-90s when the alto saxophonist/composer was starting to seriously immerse himself in Cuban music
“I nailed the audition, and he asked if I had a passport,” Jones says. “We went to Cuba and did that whole thing, recording with AfroCuba de Matanzas and the amazing conga player Miguel Díaz [aka Angá]. It was one of the most inspiring experiences.”
Saturday, July 23
Inside Jazz pre-concert talk by Jesse “Chuy” Varela, KCSM Jazz 91.1 DJ at 7 p.m.; concert begins at 8 p.m.