The Cuban Connection | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Cuban Connection 

To the editors:

I appreciated Robert Heuer's article on the Irakere Band and its performance at the Chicago Jazz Festival (September 18) for its portrait of the band itself, but Heuer makes a serious omission. It was the Jazz Institute of Chicago, recognizing the exciting international dimension of jazz, which programmed the performances of Cuban jazz artists Arturo Sandoval in 1985 and Irakere this year. The initiation for the invitation to Irakere came from the JIC festival committee which, along with the Mayor's Office of Special Events, did everything possible to get the group to Chicago. And it is to them that Chicagoans owe thanks for bringing these exciting performers. The Chicago Caribbean Arts Association only provided assistance in making contact with the group and with negotiating arrangements for their travel.

With respect to jazz commentator Dick Buckley's unfortunate comment about heightened security around the Sandoval group in 1985, he quickly recognized the inaccuracy of his statement and graciously clarified it during the Jazz Festival. Buckley made a regrettable misstatement, but not a momentous one.

Having just returned from a short trip to Cuba, I would also like to mention that Irakere returned with very warm feelings about Chicago and might even consider a winter visit sometime. I had dinner with a few members of the band in Havana after some difficulty in communications. Contrary to some of the allegations of Heuer's sources about the special treatment the group receives in Cuba, it turns out that band leader Chucho Valdes does not have a private telephone (nor do some other members as there remains a shortage), nor does he have a car. He earns pretty good money by Cuban standards, but he also works incredibly hard, composing, giving regular classes in piano and composition, recording, and performing. To my knowledge none of the band members are party members, nor are the members of Sandoval's group--one of the sources quoted contends party membership is a requisite for permission to perform abroad.

Debra Evenson


Chicago Caribbean Arts Association

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