On Friday, September 20, three-time Grammy nominee and five-time JUNO Award (aka Canada’s Grammys) winner, soprano saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett and her sextet Maqueque will bring the soul of Cuba to NYC. Flushing Town Hall will celebrate this 8 PM concert by Jane Bunnett & Maqueque with a season-opening party, starting with a dance lesson at 7 PM. Dubbed the “new queens of Afro-Cuban jazz,” Jane Bunnett and Maqueque features all-star female Cuban musicians in a rich Afro-Cuban gumbo with dynamic rhythms, melodies, spirited playing and singing. Cuban-style food and drinks will be available to purchase at the event.
Jane Bunnett gave us some insight into what audiences will experience!
So how did Jane Bunnett and Maqueque come to be?
My partner of 40 years Larry Cramer, a trumpet player/producer, and l have had a group called Spirits of Havana for many years. This group has launched many young emerging talents from Cuba, but they have always been GUYS!!! Pedrito Martinez, Dafnis Prieto, Elio Villa Franca, David Virelles, etc., all who have gone on to amazing careers in music. I have always been the only woman in the band. Five years ago, we thought it was time to try to assist some of the wonderful women musicians that we were meeting while visiting and working in Cuba’s Conservatories.
What has it meant to mentor young Cuban female musicians? Any messages you want to send to young female musicians in the US about how they can thrive in the business?
You just have to persevere… if you love the music…it’s a long road… going from a student to making a living off your art…..but if you put the music first… It will sustain you…you have to try and have fun along the way/ Surround yourself with like-minded people. That love the music, too. Try to find your own voice. There are many folks trying to survive in this music world, but if you are unique and have something special to say…you will stand out.
What can audiences/attendees expect to experience at your concert?
An exciting and visually entertaining show, all the vocalists/musicians in Maqueque are unique and have their own distinct personalities. Each one stands out on their own but collectively we are a powerful force. The music is a mix of Afro Cuban Rhythms, Jazz, and vocal harmonies. And we have been told by many—DownBeat Magazine, for example—that no other band out there sounds like us, and that we are one of the best bands out there touring at this time.
How often have you performed in the U.S., and in NYC?
Many times in the last three years. It’s not easy for us to come to the USA. We have to Petition the State Department a year in advance. Then the petition has to be approved. Then we have to set up Visa appointments at the US embassy in Toronto, as there is no US embassy anymore in Cuba. Then we have to pay for the visas for the band. But the kicker is that we are only able to receive one entrance into the US, meaning if there are days off with no work we cannot return to Canada as we veto our next entrance. So we are constantly having to apply for new visas, constantly moving people from Cuba to Toronto, which is where l am based. Then entering the US, return, do it all again. So the point is we would like people to know that there are a lot of sacrifices made by the group to get from A to B. It’s a lot of work. When we get on stage, it makes it all worth it because there has been this a lot of effort involved .
What does it mean to perform/present in Queens at Flushing Town Hall?
It’s our premiere performance in Queens and it’s an honor to play at this prestigious venue and open the fall season. Flushing Town Hall!!!
What’s on the horizon for Jane Bunnett and Maqueque?
The moon!!!!!! More tours to Europe, Latin America, and Asia, and a documentary film… and Maqueque Big Band!!!!!! But here we come now, with our third and brand new CD, ON FIRM GROUND.