What started as a vacation ended up being a transformative trip that has become a lifelong passion and an awarding-winning music project for jazz musician Jane Bunnett.
For the first time, Bunnett is bringing her Grammy Award-nominated group Maqueque to Savannah for the 37th annual Savannah Jazz Festival. Bunnett and Maqueque will play the bandshell at Forsyth Park, for free, at 7 p.m. Sept. 29.
It’s rare in the jazz world for an all-female outfit to even assemble, much less one steeped in the rich traditions of Afro-Cuban jazz music.
Bunnett, a Canadian, five-time Juno Award winner and three-time Grammy-nominated musician, traveled to Mexico several times in the 1970s, but each time, she would get sick. In search of a new vacation spot, she heard about Cuba from a friend. She found an ad for a cheap trip and decided to check it out. That was 1982.
What she didn’t plan on was the enriching experience she would have almost immediately after stepping off the plane. “The moment we got to Cuba, there was music everywhere,” Bunnett said.
She and her husband, Larry, were both accomplished jazz musicians at the time. They brought their horns on that first trip to Cuba and it didn’t take long before they were sitting in on sessions with local musicians. They bought records. They met people. They became fully immersed in Cuban music over the subsequent decades.
The music of Cuba is some of the most diverse in the world. With African rhythmic roots, Spanish influence, European sprinklings and Caribbean flavor, the depth of the styles and fusions of genres has enriched the worlds of jazz, salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz.