The Caribbean used to evoke images of joy, music and tropical rhythms. And talking about jazz in our region brings up the debate: there really is a subgenre of this expression that is distinctively and truly Caribbean.
For me, there was never any doubt whatsoever that this region had made its special contributions to the world of music and improvisation that we know as jazz.
I remember well the magic that the great Dizzy Gillespie brought when he joined the young and prodigious genius of the bicolor keys, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, in a concert at the Karl Marx Theater. It is also difficult to forget having been witness to the mastery of the great Chucho Valdés and Irakere, full of energy on arrangements played with brass and percussion. It was jazz without a doubt, but performed in a characteristically Caribbean way.
Is there truly a Caribbean jazz? Of course! From the beginning New Orleans jazz and calypso born in Trinidad and Tobago, had a very close melodic and structural correlation. The difference, in my view, was in the use of rhythms and percussive base. In the calypso, for several decades, the element of improvisation was narrow and there was an attachment to African roots to further tell stories of social events.
Meanwhile, New Orleans jazz stands out for its improvisation, which allowed much more freedom for the musicians to show their virtuosity.
The migration of many of the best Caribbean musicians to the north has served to nourish jazz with the native elements of our way of interpreting it. The trumpeter and poet dominated the clubs in Europe during the sixties and seventies, until he returned to the Caribbean.
Jazz, with its Caribbean variant, has settled with its accents and particularities depending on the territory of origin. It is jazz performed and strongly influenced by the rhythms and styles of the Caribbean.