Jazz Plaza 2019 is in full swing now and with two more days of outstanding performances lined up, time is of the essence if you want to add a jazzy dimension to your casa particular stay in Havana or Santiago.

Now in its 35th edition, the International Jazz Plaza Festival brings the best of contemporary jazz music to the Cuban capital of Havana and the eastern city of Santiago with spectacular international performances, including the likes of Chicago stars Stanley Jordan, Bill Evans, and David Liebman, a trio of cult jazz artists that Cubans and tourists will go crazy for.

Official Jazz Plaza Festival 2019 billboard
Official Jazz Plaza Festival 2019 billboard

On the national side, the festival includes a special tribute to Cuban band Irakere, winner of the Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording in 1980 and famously founded by living Cuban legend and pianist Chucho Valdes. To celebrate the historic, groundbreaking band that mixed Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Songo and Jazz fusion, an all-star group of Cuban musicians will take to the stage to give a rendition of the famous groups’ best hits.

A tribute to Cuban singer Omara Portuondo will see her taking to the stage to perform some of her most famous songs.

Contemporary Cuban rising stars performing in Jazz Plaza 2020 include Bobby Carcasses (founder of the festival) alongside Afrojazz, Roberto Fonseca, Ernan Lopez-Nussa and Cimafunk. Up-and-coming jazz artists from the international scene include Trombone Shorty Foundation, Big Chief Monk Voudreaux and Tank. From New Orleans, Jon Cleary will bring his blend of soul, funk and R&B to the table while Soul Revels will liven things up and bring the audience to its feet with their infectious party sounds.

Participating artists come from a variety of corners around the globe with soloists and jazz bands from Austria, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Martinique, Norway, Puerto Rico, and Japan, to mention a few.

Line-up of artists performing in Havana tonight, Saturday 18th

What’s on tonight in Havana as part of the Jazz Plaza festival? See below and take your pick.

  • Concert by Harold Lopez-Nussa and guest artists Kelvis Ochoa and Cimafunk – 6:00 p.m. Teatro Nacional (Sala Covarrubias)
  • Concert by saxophonist David Liebman with guest artists Orlando Valle “Maraca” and Miguel Zenon – 8:30 p.m. Teatro Nacional (Sala Avellaneda)
  • Concert by Roberto Fonseca and Temperamento, guest artists David Liebman, Samy Thiebault, and DJ Joe Claussell – 10:00 p.m. Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) at Nave 4
  • Jam Session with Erne Alfonso and guests – 10:00 p.m. Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) at Nave 1

Line-up of artists performing in Havana tomorrow night, Sunday 19th

What’s on tomorrow night in Havana as part of the Jazz Plaza festival? See below and take your pick.

  • Concert “Havana in a Grand Manner” by Ernan Lopez-Nussa – 6:00 p.m. Teatro Nacional (Sala Covarrubias)
  • Concert by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas with Samy Thiebault as the guest artist – 6:00 p.m. Jardines del Teatro Mella
  • Concert with performances from Jan de Cosmo and Mike Lewis, The Common Taters / Patricia Fisher and Arpa / Mayquel Gonzales and guests – 6:00 p.m. Teatro Bertolt Brecht
  • Saxodia / El Mundo de Sofia / Los Muñequitos de Matanzas – 6:00 p.m. Jardines del Copelia
  • Concert by Kelvis Ochoa – 6:00 p.m. Pabellon Cuba (Escenario Central)
  • Pianist Mine Kawakami in concert – 8:00 p.m. Sala Cervantes (Prado y Animas)
  • Performances by Portillo y Cauce – 8:00 p.m. Restaurant Buena Vista Country Club
  • Jamming session with Samy Thiebault / Concert celebrating Omara Portuondo´s 90 years as a jazz performer with Roberto Fonseca and invited guests: David Liebman, Samy Thiebault, Andrea Motis, Buena Fe, Cimafunk, Yomil y el Danny, among others – 8:30 p.m. Teatro Nacional (Sala Avellaneda)
  • Performance by U.S. singer Jessie Charbonier / The Alan Lewine Xtet / Juan Luis Cortes y NG La Banda – 8:30 p.m. Teatro America
  • Rebirth Canal project / Elis La Rosa on the saxophone and Juan Carlos Paniagua on the piano/performance by Mezcla / Kim Barth and String Quarter / Miguel Zenon / Concert by legendary Cuban band “Los Van Van” – 9:00 p.m. Casa de la Cultura Plaza
  • Concert by Jan de Cosmo and Mike Lewis, The Common Taters – 10:00 p.m. Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) at Nave 4


What about Santiago de Cuba?

We haven’t been able to get our hands on the full Jazz Plaza 2019 programme in Santiago de Cuba, but we do know that most of the jazzing activity will take place at either of these three venues: Sala Dolores (a concert hall housed inside a beautiful former church – Antigua Iglesia Nuestra Señora de los Dolores), the Iris Jazz Club (a venue with an electric vibe and year-long popularity, so a place to definitely check out in Santiago any time of year, no special occasion or concert needed), and the Patio de la UNEAC. By checking out these joints you’re likely to see the Jazz Plaza programme and the full list of performances. Otherwise, you can always ask.

Where to stay during Jazz Plaza 2019?

In Havana

There are a number of hotels and casas particulares close to the jamming action in Havana this week. Whether you prefer a Havana casa

Casa Leticia – a casa particular in Centro Habana

particular right next to one of the venues or one removed from jazzy sounds it’s up to you. If you want to be within walking distance to some of the jazz venues, we have quite the selection of casas particulares in Vedado (close to Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Pabellon de Cuba, Teatro Mella, Teatro America, Teatro Bertolt Brecht, Copelia – all Jazz Plaza venues) in Old Havana (Teatro Marti, Sala Cervantes) or Playa (Salon Rosado de la Tropical). As for the Teatro Nacional, it’s the one furthest away from our casas in the Plaza municipality, the one closest to it is Casa Leticia and you can walk to and from the jazz concerts if you don’t mind the 25-minute journey. Bear in mind that the evenings are cooler so the walk far more pleasant than if you were to do it during the day.

In Santiago de Cuba

If planning to stay in a Santiago casa particular during the Jazz Plaza festival we can certainly recommend a few very close to the three main

A casa particular in Santiago's city centre
Casa La Nenita – a centric casa particular in Santiago

venues where all the jamming will take place. We may only have three casas particulares in Santiago de Cuba at present, but it just so happens that they’re all perfectly located close to the jazz. Casa La Nenita is the best situated of the three; only a five-minute walk from Sala Dolores and a 12-minute stroll to the  Iris Jazz Club. Meanwhile, Casa Tania and Casa de Mabel, which sit very close together, are around 15 minutes’ walk from Sala Dolores and a 20 minutes’ journey to the Iris Jazz Club. You can’t go wrong with either of the three. At the end, it depends on how close you want to be to the jazz venues or what Santiago casa particular you like best if walking time is not an issue for you.