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Jazz Great Wynton Marsalis Releases Historic ‘Live in Cuba’ Album

Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis is set to release an historic album recorded before live audiences in Cuba’s capital city of Havana.

Marsalis’ album comes in the wake of President Barack Obama’s July announcement that the U.S. and Cuba had reached a deal to re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time in 50 years. Last week, the two countries saw through their deal to open embassies in each other’s capitals.

Featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Live in Cuba explores the profound connections between American jazz and Afro-Cuban music “from bebop to bolero and beyond,” per Blue Engine Records. The album captures three nights of sold-out performances at the historic Mella Theater in Havana from October 2010.

Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

"The crowd clapped, cried and laughed, clearly recognizing a sound that resonated deeply, although it had not been heard live for decades."

The Havana concerts came about following President Obama’s initial easing of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba nearly five years ago. It was then that the Cuban Institute of Music invited the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis to come to Cuba.

During the week-long stint at the Mella Theater, the band played a wide variety of pieces from jazz classics like Duke Ellington’s “Braggin’ in Brass” to music of the Cuban diaspora such as “The Afro Cuban Jazz Suite,” Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill's singular masterpiece.

According to Wynton Marsalis' son, Simeon, "The crowd clapped, cried and laughed, clearly recognizing a sound that resonated deeply, although it had not been heard live for decades."

Ayano Hisa for Jazz at Lincoln Center

The upcoming recording is a compilation of songs chosen from the Havana shows. Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra left Cuba having been greatly impacted by the warm Cuban reception. As Wynton recalled to his son in the album's linear notes, "We were finding each other, and this opportunity has forever changed our lives."

The Live in Cuba album will be released on August 21st by Jazz at Lincoln Center's Blue Engine Records, the new platform created to make available its vast archive of recorded concerts to jazz audiences. The album is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.