Since its first edition, organized by UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in 2012, International Jazz Day has presented and encouraged performances and jazz-education initiatives around the globe. Each year, IJD visits a host city with a grip of the world’s best musicians, to give master classes and perform in an all-star gala concert webcast. For 2017, leading up to the official IJD date of April 30, those players and singers converged on Havana, Cuba. As experienced by JazzTimes, the long weekend was a rousing success that saw plenty of enriching collaboration between a diverse jazz A-list and the exceedingly fertile Cuban scene.
More than anything, these inspired musical interactions came off as a portent of the brilliant things to come if interests of human goodwill were able to supersede politics. Nevertheless, and not surprisingly, the event incited pushback from musicians, especially Cuban-American expats, who questioned the wisdom of rewarding a controversial government like Cuba’s with an important event that employs jazz as a metaphor for democracy and fellowship. We present here a reaction from the renowned clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Paquito D’Rivera, who, it’s worth noting, performed at last year’s IJD concert at the White House, in an ensemble featuring his former Irakere bandmate Chucho Valdés. – JazzTimes