Three prominent American jazz musicians left for Cuba for an opportunity to play with their Cuban counterparts in Havana. Ninety Miles is the stunning outcome of this adventure. The sophistication of the musical dialogue was impressive and the cultural differences proved to be easy to overcome. The colours of Cuba and American swing were seamlessly blended into a musical statement about the power of music which sidesteps politics and diplomacy.
Ninety miles is the distance separating Cuba from the USA. Sometimes this distance seems impossible to bridge but at the end of the day there are very few borders between musicians who speak a common language. Getting the American jazz musicians to Havana however proved quite a hassle in administrative terms. But as soon as they were able to sit down with their Cuban counterparts they put their worries behind them. They alternated ballads with swing, playing songs by David Sánchez, Stefon Harris and Christian Scott, but also by Cuban musicians.
Saxophonist David Sánchez grew up in Puerto Rico where he was influenced by Afro-Caribbean music and danza but also by European and Latin classical music. He joined Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra in 1990. In 2005 he won a Grammy award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for his album, ‘Coral’. He makes rhytmically entrancing and highly elegant organic music. His contribution to ‘The Forgotten Ones’ on the album ‘Ninety Miles’ makes it a truly moving composition.
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris studied at the Manhattan School of Music, but credits his teachers in high school with recognising his passion for music early on and offering him lessons and the chance to bring home instruments to practice. He soon developed a strong personality and is considered the preeminent vibraphone player of his generation since the Nineties. He excells at smooth lyricism and it is worth noting how well his vibraphone blends with the Cuban percussion of Ninety Miles.
While Christian Scott played the trumpet on the album he has been replaced by Nicholas Payton for the tour. Payton is the son of legendary bassist Walter Payton and was born in New Orleans into a musical family. His style is truly defined by the amazing music culture of his native city. By age nine he was sitting in with local bands including the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, along with his father, who also plays the sousaphone. In 1994 he recorded his first album as a leader for the Verve label, entitled ‘From this Moment’. In 1996 he played in Robert Altman’s movie, ‘Kansas City’. He has already recorded eight albums under his own name. In 2008 he became a member of The Blue Note 7, a septet created to mark the legendary label’s seventieth anniversary. As a trumpet player he is an entertainer, a swinger and a virtuoso horn-blower.