Jane Bunnett & Spirits of Havana | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jane Bunnett & Spirits of Havana 

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JANE BUNNETT & SPIRITS OF HAVANA

Already marked by controversy and a change of venue for security reasons, this concert--a unique collaboration between our neighbors to the north and southeast--should rank among the year's most exciting. Jane Bunnett, the Canadian flutist and soprano saxist, has long shown an interest in folding her savvy, soulful solos into the musical textures of sunnier climes, most notably Cuba (on her latest CD, Cuban Piano Masters, on World Pacific) and Brazil (Rendez-vous Brazil-Cuba, Justin Time). But it was on her award-winning 1992 CD, Spirits of Havana (Messidor), that Bunnett first indulged her Cuban fantasies, with a large ensemble of Cuban musicians similar to the group appearing on this bill. On that album, Bunnett danced a lovely rhumba along the tightrope between mere imitation and real cross-cultural fusion. She did this by maintaining the integrity of the music (and its creators) as an absolute, with no attempts to northernize the Cuban rhythms and tempos; at the same time, she trusted her command of the idiom and her expertise as a jazz improviser to propel her improvisations toward an artistically valid intersection. The results are undeniably Cuban, yet infused with a marvelous jazz lyricism. As a Canadian, Bunnett has had relatively little trouble developing her contacts with Cuban musicians, such as the highly respected pianist Hilario Duran or the host of percussionists, vocalists, and dancers who will make up the 16-piece Spirits of Havana band; her nationality lets her mostly ignore the U.S. embargo of Cuba, the main effects of which would seem to be the stunting of the cross-cultural interplay that flourished in the 40s and 50s and increased prices for contraband Cuban cigars. The sentiment that fuels the embargo led to threats of violence against the original site of this concert, so the mere presentation of the music now carries an extramusical weight--and a corresponding added promise. Sunday, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence; 235-2334.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo.

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