By: Karla Arguello

For the past few months, Rhythm Foundation has been working closely with the GroundUp Music team on the GroundUp Music Festival hosted by jazz collective Snarky Puppy, taking place at the North Beach Bandshell on February 10-12, 2017.

This past weekend, Snarky Puppy performed at the Havana International Jazz Festival “Jazz Plaza 2016” in Havana, Cuba. When they invited me to join, I couldn’t resist! It is only a 45 minute flight from Miami to Havana to experience some of the world’s most passionate music! It was a short weekend trip but an amazing experience. Havana is an animated city bursting with energy that surprised and impressed me; the people are inquisitive and sincere, the vintage cars look brand new, the architecture is impressive, the food is delicious, and there is music playing around every corner.

In its 32nd year, the International Jazz Festival of Havana has showcased some of the biggest names in jazz. This year, the festival was sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music and under the artistic direction of legendary Cuban pianist and bandleader Chucho Valdes, whom the Rhythm Foundation hosted at the Fillmore Miami Beach last November. Check out some photos from Chucho’s performance here!

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While I did not make it in time to catch Chucho’s performance, I did run into a few of the musicians who played with him at that show. On Saturday night, I went to Havana’s most famous jazz club, La Zorra y El Cuervo, for a private performance by local Cuban musicians with a special appearance by a few members of Snarky Puppy; Rolando Luna (keys) and Gaston Joya (bass) were joined by Larnell Lewis (drums), Chris Bullock (tenor sax), Mike Maher (aka Maz on trumpet), Justin Stanton (trumpet & keys). Gaston Joya was in Miami last year with Chucho Valdes and it was such a serendipitous moment for me to see a Cuban musician I have worked with in the past perform with a group of musicians whose music festival I am working on.

After the performance we all went to Fabrica de Arte Cubano (F.A.C.), an old oil factory that’s now a thriving arts space and performing arts center in Vedado, one of Havana’s residential districts. Performing that night was Roberto Fonseca & Temperamento, and the Snarky Puppy horn section, who performed an impromptu late night in one of the smaller music rooms.

On Sunday night Snarky Puppy played at the Teatro Mella, a beautiful 1,500 seat theater which was filled way over capacity that night by locals interested listening to them. Eliades Ochoa, guitarist and singer of Buena Vista Social Club made a special appearance and joined them on stage for a song.

 

The weekend in Havana was short but sweet and got me extra excited to have Snarky Puppy in Miami Beach in a couple of months!

Catch Snarky Puppy at the GroundUp Music Festival at the North Beach Bandshell on February 10-12, 2017 with Esperanza Spalding, David Crosby, Chris Thile, John Medeski and more! Tickets and more info here!

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