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  • Submitted by: lena campos
  • 11 / 11 / 2012

Dayton will feel the sunny warmth of a more tropical climate when Cityfolk presents The Cuban Connection: Jane Bunnett, Hilario Durán, and Candido Camero on Wednesday, November 14 at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre.

Bunnett, a Cityfolk favorite, has excited Dayton crowds in years past with her reverent, yet playful approach to traditional Cuban music, so it’s surprising to learn that she came to Cuban music largely by coincidence.

“In Canada, the winters are pretty horrid,” she said. “Come January, you’ve gotta get away or you’ll go crazy. I’d gone to Mexico three times in the ‘70s and gotten sick every time, so a friend suggested Cuba. My husband and I went for a week, and from the moment we arrived, music was everywhere. A trio in the airport, another outside the airport on the way to the bus, a group when we got off the bus outside the hotel…another in the hotel,” she remembered with a laugh. “We had dinner at an outdoor bar in Santiago, and there was an 18-piece band. I had never heard so much music! I had my saxophone and my husband had his trumpet, and they invited us to jump in.”

It was during this recording that she met Hilario Durán.

“In Cuba, he was the arranger and director of Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which Chucho Valdes ran before handing it over to him,” she said. “Then he was musical director for Arturo Sandoval, but outside of what he heard with the band, his jazz vocabulary was not as expansive as it is now. When we brought him up to Toronto, it really expanded his horizons, and he’s expanded mine.”

Durán said he was always interested in jazz as a child and his father used to play a lot of jazz albums.

“There are no jazz schools in Cuba; they only teach classical,” he said. “So, I learned jazz myself from listening to records. I guess that’s what all the jazz musicians from Cuba do.”

Durán’s distinct style has made him one of the most respected pianists in Latin jazz, particularly noted for his strong left-hand playing style.

“All my life, I’ve heard different pianists,” he said of his sound, “from Erroll Garner to Chucho Valdes, and I play with all the influences I have. It’s been a long, hard road to get this style, you know? I don’t copy anyone…I just play with the influences.”

Cuban Rhapsody is the ultimate culmination of the great musical partnership between Bunnett and Durán, an artfully beautiful album of duets on classic Cuban melodies.

“Everyone knows the Great American Songbook,” Bunnett said, citing “Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin. Cuba has their version of that, too — these great, classic Cuban pieces, some of which have been in our repertoire for a long time. Traveling through Cuba, I’d even hear them played in the conservatories there, but so many outside that country don’t know about them. We wanted to bring some attention to those.”

For this tour, they added the great Candido Camero — a noteworthy treat in itself. At 91 years old, he still tours and records with legendary force, and in 2008, he was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award. One of the first conga players in jazz, he recorded in Cuba with Machito, the father of Latin jazz, in the early 1950s then moved to New York and began a career that would find him onstage or in the studio with just about every great jazz artist of the next six decades, starting with Dizzy Gillespie Billy Taylor, Stan Kenton, Sonny Rollins and Tony Bennett.

Early in the tour, Bunnett said he was weary from a red-eye flight and travel delays from Hurricane Sandy.

“Candido was on the first flight out of New York City when the airports re-opened after Hurricane Sandy, and we didn’t know if he’d make it to the show,” Bunnett said. “I was so tired and stressed out. Five minutes before showtime, he arrived, and he walked onstage looking so prepared, and his energy was amazing. I had Hilario, this phenomenal musician, on one side of me, and on the other, a 91-year-old who was ready to kick my butt. I thought, ‘I gotta get in gear!’ Candido is going to blow people’s minds.”


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