Bunnett, Duran bring Cuba to Banff
It’s a good thing Jane Bunnett and Hilario Duran don’t need to haul around awards hardware to prove they belong on any given stage they grace.
Otherwise, touring would be less a matter of performing than a matter of the logistics of loading and hauling a trailer full of Junos, Grammy Awards, Urban Music Awards and jazz awards – along with honourary degrees and an Order of Canada (for Bunnett).
Ontarians Bunnett and Duran will showcase the music and culture of Cuba when they team up at The Banff Centre’s Margaret Greenham Theatre, Sunday (June 24) for jazz duets with sax and piano.
While both Bunnett and Duran have played around the world, performing with big bands and orchestras, this Banff gig will have them performing strictly as a duet.
“It’s a big change from leading big groups all the time,” said Bunnett. “We play as a duet a lot of the time and recorded Cuban Rhapsody a couple of years ago and we worked on the concept of early Cuban classical, popular music.
“People don’t know a lot about it. They know Scott Joplin, and his music is on par with Cuban music from the ’20s and ’30s. Because of Cuba’s political climate, this music hasn’t become well known, but in Cuba, everybody knows it, musicians study it, and they maybe take it for granted.”
Bunnett said that, while Cuban music from the time period may not be well known, she and Duran recently played the Kennedy Centre, “and it had a great response. I love this period of music – it was heavily influenced by Spain and France, but also by African and Cuban rhythms.
“It’s music that has great rhythm. A song can start out very classical, then have a section with a very funky section, the Afro-Cuban rhythm, then return to the elegant sound again. It’s really unique and they are dance songs you likely wouldn’t hear anywhere else.”
Duran is a Cuban pianist, composer, arranger, orchestra leader and educator who had two 2010 Juno nominations for the Hilario Durán Trio album Motion as Best Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year and Recording Engineer of the Year. He also had the number one Latin Jazz Best Recording of 2010 from Latin Jazz Network, Grammy nomination in 2007 for a Latin jazz big band album and has a Juno for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year.
He’s also won over a dozen National Jazz Awards in Canada and been honoured with the prestigious 2007 Chico O’Farrill lifetime achievement award for his contributions to Afro-Cuban jazz and Latin Jazz. In Cuba, he’s been awarded the Premio EGREM for Best Arranger of the Year 1982-83 – one of Cuba’s most prestigious music prizes.
Born in 1953 in Havana, Duran immigrated to Toronto in 1998. He was named one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians in 2009. He is also adjunct piano professor and ensemble director in jazz faculty at Humber College in Toronto.
A multiple Juno winner, Bunnett has turned her bands into showcases for the finest talent from Canada, the U.S. and Cuba. Her exploration of Afro-Cuban melodies expresses the universality of music and her ability to embrace and showcase the rhythms and culture of Cuba has been groundbreaking.
As an educator, spokesperson and social activist, she remains unafraid to explore uncharted territory in her quest for excellence.
Bunnett’s Cuban connection started in 1982, when a trip to the island with husband Larry Cramer turned her musical world upside down. Everywhere Bunnett and Cramer went they found drummers whose rhythmic complexity liberated the senses; horn players who deployed amazing dexterity in the service of heartstopping lyricism and pianists who could make any decrepit old upright roar like doom or sing like a heart in love.
When Bunnett and Duran take the Greenham stage, they will share music from the Cuba of 1910 to 1930. “Hilario grew up with this music,” she said, “and I started with Afro-Cuban folkloric material and studied composers who had lived in Europe and were celebrated in Spain and France. There’s a real international quality to the music.
“In Cuba, when you go to schools, this is the music you hear kids playing – and what you hear on TV station breaks and in theatres. It’s widely played there.”
While in Western Canada, Bunnett and Duran will also visit the Cantos Centre in Calgary, where they’ll take part in a workshop and perform on vintage instruments from the centre’s museum. As well, she’s gearing up for the world premiere release of Embracing Voices: The Woman Behind The Music Of Jane Bunnett at the NXNE (North by Northeast) arts festival. The film follows Bunnett’s personal and musical journey from Ontario to Cuba and The Banff Centre, as she produces her most ambitious CD to date, Mundo: The World of Jane Bunnett.
Mundo features 25 tracks from 16 albums from 1989 to 2008 and was recorded in part with input from the Heavyweights Brass Band, which plays the Canmore Hotel, June 21 and the Rose & Crown in Banff, June 24-25.
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.