On the final track of Maqueque’s self-titled debut five years ago, Jane Bunnett spiked the punch with her longtime collaborator Hilario Durán and a few other heavyweights. For the band’s third album, Tierra Firme, the most prominent guest stars are Maqueque alumni Daymé Arocena and Melvis Santa on vocals, plus sacred steel guitarist Nicole “Nikki” D. Brown.
That proactive evolution is typical for Bunnett, who has always ensured that paying her dues becomes a long-term investment. Early in her career, she dismantled gender bigotry by holding her own with rugged male elders like Dewey Redman, Don Pullen, and Billy Hart. And after she fell in love with Cuban music on her initial trips to the island in the 1980s, she returned again and again, fundraising instruments for children and absorbing wide swaths from a panoply of genres. Her decision to form an all-female group of younger Cuban musicians has opened a creative portal for both the ever-changing members of Maqueque (which translates to “energy of a girl’s spirit”) and the leader herself.