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Although the echoes of the recently held International Festival of New Latin American Cinema can still be heard, the 27th International Jazz Plaza Festival, which this year is dedicated to classical music in jazz, is already on its way. The organizers have announced the presence of a true constellation of international and homebred jazz stars.
Perhaps the greatest expectation has been raised by the Cuban pianist Gonzalito Rubalcaba, son of one of the most popular Cuban pianists. When this international jazz star decided to make his career outside Cuba, he left here in the island a trail of fans who have followed closely his brilliant career and who anxiously await for his performance along with bassists Matthew Brewer and Lionel Loueke, drummers Marcus Gilmore and Ignacio Berroa (also of Cuban origin and last drummer in Dizzy Gillespie’s band), and percussionist/vocalist Pedro Martinez.
As expected, Rubalcaba will perform at the opening gala on Thursday the 15th at the Mella Theatre in a five-star program, sharing the stage with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Entrevoces chorus directed by Digna Guerra and Arthur O’Farrill from the US (son of one of Cuba’s great popular music figures, composer and trumpet player Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill). The excellent legendary pianist Joanne Brackeen, from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, will also be performing along with saxophonist and composer Neil Leonard, bassist John Lockwood and drummer John Ramsey.
Glancing through the program, the Mella theatre is clearly the festival’s stronghold. Friday the 16th, 8:30 pm, promises to be a total success with the performances of the Cuban pianist and composer Ernán López-Nussa; showman Bobby Carcassés, one of the founders of Jazz Plaza; the members of the Berklee Faculty Jazz; and Roberto Fonseca and his band Temperamento. Saturday the 17th holds yet more surprises starting at 5:00 pm with a concert by Gonzalito, followed at 8:30 pm by another concert with two young Cuban stars, pianists and composers Harold López- Nussa and Aldo López Gavilán, who are equally at ease playing both jazz and classical music. Their performances will be accompanied by the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory String Quartet, Will Calhoun from the US, and the Chamber Orchestra of Havana. For the closing ceremony on Sunday the 18th, a jazz band conducted by Joaquín Betancourt, and the special performance by the prize-winning Cuban pianist Frank Fernández and the lyric tenor Yury Hernández Gómez will round up the evening.