The Havana Jazz Festival is an annual event that takes place in Havana, Cuba, usually in late January. It’s a celebration of all things jazz, featuring some of the best musicians from around the world. The festival has been running for over three decades and has become a significant event on the international jazz calendar.

For jazz enthusiasts, the Havana Jazz Festival is an event that should not be missed. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the music and culture of Cuba in a way that few other events can match. The festival showcases not only the best jazz musicians from Cuba but also from around the world. Performances take place in various venues across the city, from small clubs to large concert halls, and there’s always a great atmosphere.

One of the best ways to experience the Havana Jazz Festival is through Havana Music Tours. They offer a range of packages that allow you to immerse yourself in the festival and explore the local music scene. You can attend performances, meet local musicians, and even take part in music workshops. The tours are led by experienced guides who are passionate about Cuban music and culture and can provide valuable insights into the festival and the city.

Cuba has a rich and vibrant musical heritage, and the Havana Jazz Festival is a great way to experience it. The festival is a melting pot of different musical styles, from traditional Cuban music to modern jazz. It’s a celebration of diversity and creativity, and there’s always something new and exciting to discover.

In addition to the music, the Havana Jazz Festival is a great opportunity to explore Havana. The city has a unique charm, with its colorful buildings, vintage cars, and bustling streets. There are plenty of things to see and do, from visiting historic sites to trying out local cuisine. The festival is a great way to experience the city’s culture and get a taste of what makes Havana so special.

In conclusion, the Havana Jazz Festival is an event that should be on every jazz lover’s bucket list. It’s a celebration of music, culture, and creativity and a unique opportunity to experience the best of Cuba. With Havana Music Tours, you can explore the festival and the city in an authentic and unforgettable way. Don’t miss out on this incredible experience!

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If you love music or enjoy exploring unique cultural events, the Havana Jazz Festival is a must-visit. Held annually in Cuba’s lively capital, this festival truly celebrates jazz, culture, and the enchanting spirit of Havana. Here’s why this remarkable event deserves a spot on your travel plans.

1. A Rich Musical Heritage

Cuba’s musical roots run deep, and the Internationa Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana is a shining example of this rich history. The festival combines traditional Cuban sounds and contemporary jazz, offering an unparalleled auditory experience. Imagine swaying to the beats of Afro-Cuban rhythms one moment and getting lost in the soulful melodies of modern jazz fusion the next, all performed by some of the most gifted musicians worldwide.

2. World-Class Performances at the International Jazz Plaza Festival

This festival draws top-notch talent from across the globe. Past festivals have seen performances by legends like Chucho Valdés, David Weckl, and Arturo O’Farrill, alongside contemporary stars such as Snarky Puppy, Aaron Goldberg, and Emmet Cohen. The lineup also includes prominent Cuban artists like Roberto Fonseca, whose charismatic blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz brings an electrifying energy to the stage.

3. Diverse Venues and Experiences in Havana

The festival is held across multiple iconic venues in Havana, including the Teatro Nacional, Fabrica de Arte Cubano, and the historic Casa de la Cultura. Each venue offers a unique ambiance, from large theaters’ grandeur to small clubs’ intimate settings. The festival also includes workshops, jam sessions, and the International Jazz Colloquium, where scholars and musicians discuss the impact of jazz on society.

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Havana Jazz Plaza at Casa de la Cultura

4. A Cultural Immersion

Attending the Havana Jazz Festival is not just about the music; it’s an opportunity to dive deep into Cuban culture. Enjoy walking tours that explore the roots of Afro-Cuban music, visit local farms, and savor authentic Cuban cuisine at top-rated paladares (private restaurants). Each day is packed with activities that highlight Havana’s culture and history.

5. Exclusive Havana Jazz Festival Access and VIP Treatment with Havana Music Tours

Booking a curated tour with Havana Music Tours ensures you get VIP access to the best events and prime seating at concerts. These tours often include private dinners with live music, studio listening sessions, and dance or music lessons, providing an exclusive and immersive experience that goes beyond just attending concerts.

Havana Jazz Plaza Festival - Small Group Tours Avalaibility 10- Havana Music Tours

6. Support Local Artists in Havana

By attending the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival, you’re also supporting the local music scene. The festival offers a platform for Cuban musicians to showcase their talents to an international audience, helping to preserve and promote Cuba’s rich musical traditions. Your presence contributes to the growth and recognition of these incredible artists.

7. Create Unforgettable Memories

The experiences you’ll have at the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival will stay with you long after the final note has been played. The magic of live jazz in the enchanting setting of Havana is something truly special. It’s a chance to escape the ordinary and indulge in a celebration of music and culture that is both exhilarating and deeply satisfying.

Conclusion

The Havana Jazz Festival is more than just an event; it’s a celebration for anyone who cherishes music and cultural experiences. With its blend of exceptional performances, deep-rooted heritage, and the captivating charm of Havana, it offers an enriching and unforgettable experience. So, make plans to attend the Havana Jazz Festival and prepare for a journey filled with extraordinary music, cultural delights, and cherished memories.

For more detailed information and to book your tour, visit our tour page​.

The Symbiotic Journey of Cuban Music and Jazz: From Havana to New Orleans and New York

By Yami Cabrera (Cuban musicologist and Co-Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

In the realm of music, few genres demonstrate the dynamic interplay of cultural influences as vividly as jazz. Celebrated for its improvisational prowess and complex harmonies, jazz did not emerge in a vacuum. Instead, it is a product of rich, interwoven musical traditions, among which Cuban music is pivotal.

As we celebrate today’s International Jazz Day, we wanted to bring you this article that briefly explores the influences of Cuban music on jazz, tracing the musical journey from Havana to New Orleans and New York, cities pivotal in the evolution of this quintessentially American genre.

The Cultural Crossroads: Havana and New Orleans

Cuban music’s infiltration into the core of jazz was intricately tied to the migration of people and their musical ideas. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Havana and New Orleans emerged as pivotal port cities—veritable cultural crossroads where the pulsating energies of the Atlantic and Caribbean converged. This period marked an era of exchange of rhythms and melodies, a musical melting pot stirred by the constant flow of ships and the diverse communities that thronged these bustling harbors.

The clave, a rhythmic pattern that is both fundamental to Cuban music and deeply rooted in African musical traditions, played a significant role in this cultural synthesis. Its distinctive syncopation, characterized by a compelling and complex sequence of beats, resonated deeply within the musical landscape of New Orleans.

As Cuban musicians settled and performed, the clave’s infectious rhythm permeated the local music scene, influencing and eventually becoming embedded in the evolving sound of early jazz. This rhythm not only enriched the musical vocabulary of New Orleans musicians but also provided a rhythmic backbone that would come to define much of the early jazz structure, bridging two rich musical cultures through shared beats and sounds.

Like in traditional Cuban genres such as son and rumba, the clave rhythm became essential to the New Orleans music scene, influencing the habanera rhythm prevalent in early jazz. This pattern introduced a new approach to musical timekeeping and phrasing, vital for developing jazz’s swing rhythms.

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Expanding Influence: From New Orleans to New York

The cultural exchange facilitated by Cuban music was dynamic and multidirectional. In New Orleans, musicians such as the legendary Louis Armstrong absorbed and adapted Cuban influences, weaving them into the fabric of American jazz. Armstrong’s use of Cuban-inspired techniques, exemplified during his trips to Havana in the 1930s, helped transform jazz into a more complex and globally resonant musical form. These trips also highlighted Havana’s role as a musical hub, reflecting its impact on local and international music scenes. As Cuban music left its mark on New Orleans, the influence continued to ripple northward, finding a new home in New York.

Louis Armstrong Playing trumpet - Havana Music Tours Website Photos

Cuban Music in New York’s Melting Pot

In New York, a city already known as a melting pot of musical styles, the impact of Cuban music became even more pronounced by the mid-20th century. The migration of Caribbean musicians, including prominent Cuban artists, introduced direct Cuban musical elements into New York’s burgeoning jazz scene. Iconic music halls and nightclubs in New York were the backdrop for these interactions, where Cuban rhythms seamlessly blended with jazz harmonies.

Artists like Machito and his Afro-Cubans played a crucial role in this musical fusion, popularizing styles like the mambo and profoundly influencing an entire generation of jazz musicians. This synthesis in New York enriched its music scene and solidified the city’s status as a critical nexus for the ongoing evolution of jazz.

Key Figures and Musical Exchange

Significant figures who navigated these musical worlds further cemented the connection between Cuban music and jazz. Mario Bauzá, a Cuban clarinetist, trumpeter, and composer, played a pivotal role in shaping Afro-Cuban jazz. His transition from Havana’s vibrant scene to New York’s big bands directly transferred Cuban influence into seminal jazz developments. Collaborating with jazz icons like Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s, they created classics such as “Manteca,” which blended intricate Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz’s spontaneity to forge the Latin jazz subgenre.

Chano Pozo, another monumental figure and Cuban percussionist, became renowned through his innovative work with Gillespie. Pozo’s integration of complex Afro-Cuban rhythms into pieces like “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo” revolutionized modern jazz, paving the way for further collaborations between Cuban musicians and American jazz artists.

Machito, born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, also significantly influenced the New York jazz scene. Leading his band, the Afro-Cubans, Machito introduced authentic Afro-Cuban sounds to a broader American audience. His performances and recordings throughout the 1940s and 1950s played a crucial role in popularizing Latin jazz, making him a central figure in the genre’s development. His collaboration with both Bauzá and musicians like Gillespie helped fuse the rhythmic complexity of Cuban music with the harmonic sophistication of jazz, enriching the musical tapestry of America.

Cuban Instruments Meet Jazz

Cuban percussion instruments like congas/tumbadoras, bongos, and timbales have deeply influenced jazz’s textural and rhythmic landscape. Congas added depth with their resonant tones and complex syncopations, while bongos introduced high-pitched, sharp sounds that enhanced rhythmic dialogue within ensembles. Timbales’ crisp, aggressive accents enriched the percussive spectrum, particularly in big band and Latin jazz settings.

These instruments were pivotal in integrating Afro-Cuban rhythms into jazz, as evidenced by the collaborations between jazz icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban percussionists like Chano Pozo. Their partnership expanded jazz’s rhythmic foundation and encouraged a broader incorporation of Latin elements into jazz, influencing generations of musicians and shaping the genre’s evolution.

Conclusion: Celebrating Cuban Music in Jazz

It is crucial to acknowledge and honor the profound impact of Cuban music on jazz as we celebrate International Jazz Day. The musical dialogues between Havana, New Orleans, and New York have enriched jazz and underscored the music’s capacity to act as a conduit for cultural exchange. Cuban music’s contributions to jazz—from rhythm and instrumentation to innovative collaborations—have indelibly shaped the genre, highlighting the power of music to transcend geographical and cultural boundaries.

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Join us in January 2025 for the Havana Jazz Festival, the biggest celebration of jazz in Cuba!

The Jazz Plaza Festival, Cuba’s most significant music event, showcases a blend of renowned and emerging artists from across the globe. Past festivals have featured legendary performances by icons like Chucho Valdés, David Weckl, Arturo O’Farril, Snarky Puppy, Aaron Goldberg, Dayramir Gonzalez, Emmet Cohen, Brenda Navarrete, Alain Pérez, Interactivo, Alejandro Delgado, Oliver Valdés, Los Van Van, Hector Quintana, Muñequitos de Matanzas, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, alongside stars like Cimafunk and the vibrant Pedrito Martinez.

We invite you to join us and experience the pinnacle of jazz in Cuba with our Havana Jazz Festival Tour. This tour is designed for the ultimate VIP experience by professional musicians and musicologists from Cuba and the United States. It is tailored for those who truly appreciate music and wish to explore it deeply.

Click here for more info about our Havana Jazz Festival Tour 2025.

What to Expect from the Havana Jazz Festival 2024

Welcome to Jazz Plaza 2024, where Havana and Santiago de Cuba transform into stages for an exhilarating blend of jazz performances, bringing together the best Cuban and global talent. As we gear up for this grand musical festival, let’s dive into what makes Jazz Plaza 2024 a must-attend event for jazz lovers worldwide.

The International Jazz Maestros

Jazz Plaza 2024 boasts an impressive lineup of international artists, each bringing unique styles to Cuba’s vibrant jazz scene. Among the headliners, we have the electrifying pianist Nachito Herrera, who seamlessly blends classical, Latin, and jazz genres, promising a dynamic and soul-stirring performance. Violin virtuoso Karen Briggs, known for her ability to transcend musical boundaries, is set to deliver a performance that’s as diverse as captivating.

And then, there’s Emmet Cohen, an American jazz pianist whose innovative approach to jazz has earned him worldwide acclaim. From the Nordic lands, the Mathias Eick Quintet and Benjamin Koppel are set to add a unique Scandinavian touch to the festival, blending smooth jazz with European sensibilities.

Adding to this stellar lineup is Cuba’s own Roberto Fonseca, a pianist whose name resonates with the essence of contemporary Cuban jazz. Fonseca, known for his charismatic blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz, brings an electrifying energy to the stage. His performances are not just concerts; they’re an exploration of the rich musical landscapes of Cuba, infused with the spirit of jazz improvisation. Fonseca’s participation in Jazz Plaza 2024 is a nod to the festival’s commitment to showcasing the best Cuban jazz alongside international legends.

Cuban Rhythms and More

No Jazz Plaza festival would be complete without the rich tapestry of Cuban music. This year, we celebrate 60 years of the Original de Manzanillo and 45 years of Son 14, marking significant milestones in Cuban musical history. Additionally, Alejandro Falcón y Cubadentro will showcase their fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz, exemplifying the innovative spirit of Cuban jazz.

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Havana Jazz Plaza Festival 2019 – Performance at Teatro Nacional de Cuba

A Week of Musical Delights

Jazz Plaza 2024 spans a week filled with performances across various venues in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Each day unfolds a new chapter in the jazz saga, from tributes to jazz legends to showcases of emerging talents. Attendees can look forward to a blend of jazz styles, from traditional to contemporary, ensuring there’s something for every jazz enthusiast.

Buena Vista Social Club’s Stars Shine at Jazz Plaza 2024

An extraordinary night awaits at the Teatro Nacional Sala Covarrubias with “Estrellas de Buena Vista y más,” a showcase featuring the luminaries of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. This performance is poised to be one of the festival’s most memorable highlights.

A Gathering of Cuban Music Legends: This special event brings together a constellation of Cuban music icons, including Pancho Amat, Pedro Pablo Gutiérrez, Javier Zalba, and Lázaro Jorge Villa Morgan, among others. Each artist carries the legacy of Buena Vista Social Club, known worldwide for their profound impact on Cuban music. Accompanied by guests like the renowned Alain Pérez and María Victoria, the evening promises a blend of son, bolero, danzón, and more, creating a tapestry of sounds that embody the soul of Cuba.

This performance is a tribute to the enduring spirit of Cuban music and a testament to its ongoing evolution. It’s an opportunity for festival-goers to experience the richness of Cuban musical heritage brought to life by the very artists who have shaped its course.

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Omara Portuondo

Why Attend Jazz Plaza 2024?

Jazz Plaza 2024 is more than just a festival; it’s a cultural experience. It’s where the soul of jazz meets the heart of Cuban music, creating an exhilarating and deeply moving ambiance. Whether you’re a jazz purist or a casual music lover, this festival promises unforgettable moments set against the backdrop of Cuba’s rich cultural heritage.

Stay tuned for more updates, and get ready to dive into the world of the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival 2024!

For more info, check out our Havana Jazz Festival Tour page.