Seamlessly Wedding Cuban Rhythm to American Jazz


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Bobby Carcasses is a singer, trumpeter, pianist, conguero and connector in Cuban jazz. As a bandleader, big-band sideman and a founder of the first jazz festival in Cuba, in 1980, he's spent his career attending to the equal relationship between the guaguanco-rumba-guaracha spectrum and the swing-jazz-blues spectrum.

That relationship might sound natural, but it's also a cause he's fighting for. As might be expected in a Communist country where musicians have been government employees, Cuba for a long time had an ambivalent relationship with American jazz. For that and other reasons, though lots of American music is innately Afro-Cuban, not much Afro-Cuban music is innately oriented toward jazz harmony and rhythm.

Mr. Carcasses, 71, still lives in Cuba; he's only visited the United States sporadically. But the Cuban musicians who have moved to New York to play jazz in the last 15 years or so consider him a respected elder.

He performed at the Jazz Gallery on Thursday night with some of the best of those expatriates: the pianist Manuel Valera; the Terry brothers--Yosvany on alto saxophone and Yunior on bass; the conguero Marvin Diz; and the drummer Dafnis Prieto. (Andrea Brachfeld, an American who plays charanga-style flute with serious authority, joined them for a few tunes.) The show was partly about vanity and partly about generosity: what you left remembering wasnt so much Mr. Carcasss himself as the band and the cause he has advanced.

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