Cuba comes to the Athens Concert Hall

Anybody who’s been to Cuba definitely has something to say about its music. A deeply ingrained part of the island country’s culture for every generation, it is also one of its trademark features. If you’ve already been to Cuba and need another taste or, even better, if you haven’t been and long for that feeling, this is your chance. «One Night in Havana,» tomorrow’s marathon tribute to Cuban music and latin jazz at the Athens Concert Hall, will feature live music by the likes of Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdes, Chico Freeman and Gonzalo Rubalcaba but also local artists as well as screenings and a party for experienced and aspiring salseros. Events will run into the early hours of the morning. Part of the «Gefyres» (Bridges) jazz series organized by composer Dimitris Marangopoulos, «A Night in Havana» will start at 6 p.m. with the screening of films and documentaries, namely Jorge Luis Sanchez’s 2006 drama «El Benny» about Cuban music icon Benny More, Stephen Crisman’s 2005 documentary «Hemingway’s Cuba,» Wim Wenders’s award-winning and highly popular 1999 documentary «Buena Vista Social Club» as well as Philippe Blot’s 2004 documentary exploring Cuba’s musical heritage «Cubanissimo» and Idelfonso Ramos Valdes’s 2008 short documentary «Cuerdas y Percusion» (the first and last two are Greek premieres). Admission to the screenings is free and the audience will be free to come and go. Local jazzman Dimitris Kalantzis and his group will join forces with the Camerata Orchestra and maestro Miltos Logiadis, opening up the night’s concert program at 8 p.m. at the Nikos Skalkottas Hall with a tribute to the history of latin jazz. At 9.30 p.m. at the Alexandra Trianti Hall, Latin jazz piano greats Chucho Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, both Grammy award-winners, will get together on stage. At 11 p.m. in the New Exhibition Hall, the Dimitris Sevdalis Quartet and Cuban singer Mildreys Duquesne will present a jazz-style tribute to boleros (admission is free), while at 11.30 p.m., in the Banquet Hall, the versatile trumpet player and four-time Grammy Award-winner as well as Emmy Award-winner Arturo Sandoval will get together with acclaimed jazz saxophonist and trumpeter Chico Freeman and his Guataca ensemble for a powerful Afro-Cuban and African-American jazz concert which is already sold out. At the same venue and with free admission, the Latin All Stars Meeting Band, led by Yoel Soto, will set the tone for a swirling salsa dancing party starting at 1.30 a.m. and hoping to continue well past dawn. Almost the entire concert hall is participating in the tribute, revealing the venue’s flexibility in hosting all kinds of music, Marangopoulos said at a recent press conference. The sets by Giorgos Vafias have tried to reproduce a genuine Cuban atmosphere, based on the feelings that Cuba evokes in the rest of the world and avoiding folksy depictions. «Greece is going through a hard time right now and music is one of the best medicines. It can help us come together and uplift everyone’s spirits, because you [the audience] are as much part of the music as we are,» said Chico Freeman, who was also present. Freeman talked about his love for Cuban music and his long friendship with Sandoval, as well as the continuation of the island’s music tradition through younger generations. «The style of music continues to grow. Younger musicians look up to Arturo and Chucho, but at the same time develop new ideas. The world is becoming a smaller place every day; before it was harder for musicians to leave Cuba but now not so,» he said, adding that, with a good dose of humility and willingness to open up to new ways of thinking, even musicians not born into that musical culture can reproduce it. Those worried about events overlapping can relax: The program has been structured in a way that makes it possible to catch every show, leaving a sensible time frame between the concerts, with the unfortunate exception of Dimitris Sevdalis and the Sandoval-Freeman performance. In fact, cramming it all in will add a New York flavor to the night, as Freeman pointed out. «That is a great thing about New York. You can watch a lot of music in one night, walking from one club to the other – you can do this every weekend,» he said. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333

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