The Cultural Exchange Pavilion at this year's Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans will feature musicians from Cuba, like revered jazz pianist Chucho Valdes (the "Duke Ellington of Cuba") and timba stars Los Van Van. The "heritage" part of this annual festival is all about acknowledging the many international influences present in New Orleans culture, food and music.
The exchange of musical ideas between New Orleans and Havana has been going on at least since the 1800s. Afro-Cuban rhythms were an essential piece of the development of New Orleans-style rhythm and blues. American jazz, born in New Orleans, inspired Cuban dance band musicians to swing and to improvise their solos.
For a detailed look at the history of New Orleans culture and the music of Cuba, I heartily recommend Ned Sublette's books: "The World That Made New Orleans" and "Cuba and its Music." Both are impeccably researched, absorbing and entertaining.
On Saturday Jazz Caliente this week, we'll hear a tune from Los Hombres Calientes, a group of New Orleans musicians who explore the musical connection between New Orleans, Cuba, Haiti and the Caribbean. Led by drummer/percussionist/musicologist Bill Summers and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, Los Hombres Calientes hit the road to learn from players around the world, and produced five albums between 1998 and 2005.
Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.