Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s Rolando Luna and Omara Portuondo. (photo: Carlos Pericás/Montuno.com) Except for the Buena Vista So...

Songs Across the Water: The Cuba-U.S. Mambo, Post-Embargo

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s Rolando Luna and Omara Portuondo. (photo: Carlos Pericás/Montuno.com)

Except for the Buena Vista Social Club, the crossover hit album that became a touchstone for Cuban culture and the spirit of a bygone era, most people in the U.S. have been exposed to little Cuban music since Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) and the I Love Lucy days. Except, maybe, for what Americans see of modern Cuban musicians from our Latin capital, Miami.

Si NOLA Cuba (photo: instagram/preshallband)

“There is something really exciting on the horizon,” says Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo (Chicago Review Press), a deep look at the influence and development of the country’s music from a Cuban point of view. “The normalization of relations with Cuba, and the impending resumption of regular direct commercial flights between New Orleans and Havana, are going to have a seismic effect on music.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band (photo: preservationhall.com)

Jaffe has injected the touring band with fresh players and an idea to form collaborations outside the New Orleans tradition, like the PHJB’s recent successful stint sharing (literally) the stage with Del McCoury’s Bluegrass Band. The Preservation Hall band has also performed and recorded with musicians ranging from My Morning Jacket to Merle Haggard, a run culminating with the group’s 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall in January 2012. “This anniversary is about the next 50 years,” Jaffe asserts. And a major event of that second half-century is about to happen: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s first trip to Cuba...

Eliades Ochoa, Barbarito Torres, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal, Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos – Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club musicians featured on the original BVSC album. (photo: Alejandro Gonzalez)

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