Salsa and latin sounds are associated with the Caribbean island of Cuba.


But, so too is Jazz, with some of the world's greatest Jazz musicians heralding from the island and modern day musical maestro's all heading to the Havana Jazz Festival to share their magical sounds with the world.

Latin Jazz dates to the 1940's and has 2 distinct styles which fall under the term: Brazilian and Cuban, both of which see variations falling within their styles.

Cuban Jazz predates Latin Jazz and its popularity in Cuba parallels the times when the Chicago Jazz clubs would be filled in the early part of the 20th century. Cuban Jazz was not recorded, nor was it exported out from Cuba, so it has remained a Cuban passion which has opened up to the world relatively recently.

The Havana Jazz Festival, now a legendary event in Cuba, started out in 1978 at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza when Bobby Carcassés and other renowned jazz musicians presented the first festival in the outdoor arena. The first offical festival dates from 1979 with famous Cuban pianist, Chucho Valdés making an appearance. Since then the festival has grown from local to international status and extended its venues to being in concert halls and night clubs across Havana.


Chucho Valdés' interest in the festival has maintained. In 1996 he became the Artistic Director of the event and President of the Organizing Committee. In 2009 he performed at the event, as did Bobby Carcassés, and 2010 saw him take on the role of Festival President.

Other jazz greats which the Havana Jazz Festival has had the pleasure to include in its lineups include Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Roy Hargrove, Charlie Haden, Ernan López-Nussa, Steve Coleman, Ronnie Scott, Michel Legrand, Ivan Lins, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Jack DeJohnette and many of these great artists return to the festival again and again, representing 50 different countries.

Havana's jazz festival is sponsored by the Instituto Cubano de la Música (ICM) and as well as all the jazz music, you can found exhibits, lectures, workshops and conferences taking place throughout the city.


The theatres Amadeo Roldan, Nacional and Mella are the main venues for the musical events, but if you head out to the Vedadero area of Havana, the jazz clubs are where the music will really get to you and it is not unusual to stumble across Chucho Valdés sat at a piano, providing the night's intimate ambience.

The festival has sparked off another Havana Jazz Festival - Joven Jazz, Jo Jazz as it is referred to or Young Jazz, allowing a wealth of new young talent the opportunity to showcase their musical skills. The festival was proposed by Chucho Valdés back in 1998 and began in the same year. First prize winners have the opportunity to record with Chucho's production company.

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