Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Music of Freedom in South Florida

Recently, Arturo Sandoval celebrated the one year anniversary of his South Florida jazz club, which has brought many of the real-deal top names in jazz to the area. Sandoval, whose defection from Cuba was dramatized in the HBO bio-pic For Love or Country, has risked much for the sake of artistic expression. Now he’s involved in free enterprise as well. Sandoval explains his motives for this venture in the September issue of Downbeat, telling Eliseo Cardona:

“It was simple: I wanted to become the first Cubanito to show how rich jazz is in the land of its birth . . . Growing up in Cuba, we couldn’t listen to jazz because this music was banned by the government. Castro thought it was counter-revolutionary. My mission was this: In the land of freedom, you have to play the music of freedom.”

Sandoval’s club has brought in a diverse roster of artists, including Ivan Lins, Jason Moran, Greg Osby, the Bad Plus, and John Scofield, as well as the trumpeter himself. Of course, opening a jazz club is a speculative venture, particularly so in Miami where jazz venues like MoJazz and Upstairs at the Van Dyke have closed in recent years. Downbeat’s piece is otherwise informative, but one would think they would include the club’s website for those interested in checking it out when in Miami.

Sandoval and his fellow defector and musical associate Paquito D’Rivera are well regarded in the Cuban-American and jazz communities. They harbor no illusions about the dictator of their homeland. D’Rivera has been particularly outspoken on the crimes perpetrated by the Castro regime. That’s why I have suggested voting for both artists in the Downbeat readers poll. There is still time for GOTV efforts (voting ends 8/31). You can vote here for Rivera in the clarinet and alto categories and Sandoval in the trumpet categories (clarinet via drop down menu, the alto and trumpet categories as write-in’s). Again, both artists are universally respected as musicians, so nobody would begrudge them their victories. They also understand only too well why jazz is the music of freedom, having been denied it by a bearded tyrant.