NPR : World Cafe

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Yasek Manzano: Jazz From Havana's Streets

All month, World Cafe invites listeners to discover the music of Havana, Cuba, with the series Sense of Place.

There's no better place to start an exploration of Cuban jazz than with the music of exciting young trumpeter Yasek Manzano. Manzano started playing the trumpet when he was 9, and by the time he was 14, he was working with Bobby Carcasses, who launched the Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana in 1980. At 17, Manzano studied under (and played alongside) the legendary Wynton Marsalis; since then, Marzano has recorded at Abdala, one of Havana's most well-appointed studios.

Here, Manzano talks to World Cafe about how traditional Cuban music is learned on the streets; and how, despite jazz influences coming from abroad, it's musicians' home turf that really shapes them. He draws comparisons to New Orleans, where musicians also learn through oral tradition rather than in a conservatory.

Before hearing from Manzano, host David Dye sits down with Latin Roots contributor Aaron Luis Levinson to discuss the history of Cuban jazz, with an emphasis on descargas, or jam sessions.

World Cafe's Sense of Place series is made possible by a grant from The Wyncote Foundation.

Listen to Aaron Luis Levinson's essential Cuban jazz playlist on Spotify.

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