Wynton Marsalis on Jazz in Cuba

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Well before many Americans had the opportunity to explore Cuba as of late, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra visited in 2010. In 2015, the band released a recording of performances from the Cuba tour, and ideastream spoke with artistic director Wynton Marsalis about the experience. Marsalis says the group made it clear that they were there as cultural ambassadors.

“We don’t go there to be political advocates. We find the common ground, those things that are human, which transcend who you are. We deal with things like death, life, disappointment, struggle, things that affect us all. I think it touches a common chord that allows us to reach across aisles of perceived and actual differences. All of human history is filled with injustices done to any group of people you name, so it is important for us to be able to move into the future by absorbing the past and accepting the sacrifices that were made.,” Marsalis said.

While Marsalis felt the band is a-political, it was obvious to him that the Cuban people for whom they performed saw jazz as representative of American freedom and democracy.

“We bring the spirit of our way of life, which is essentially freedom, freedom of choice, elevation of the individual spirit and also the celebration of the fact that human beings can choose to nurture the common ground. Also because we play the blues, we have an optimism that’s not naïve. We recognize that pain is in the world, but our tag line at Jazz at Lincoln Center is “bringing people together through swing.”

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs at EJ Thomas Hall at the University of Akron Thursday at 7:30 pm.

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