The Cd Background

   According to Latin music expert Carlos Quintana, “the foundations of Latin Jazz were  consolidated during the 1940s and 1950s and there is evidence about the inclusion of Afro-Cuban sounds into early Jazz. To this regard, Jazz pioneer “Jelly Roll Morton used the term “Latin tinge” to make a reference to the rhythm that characterized some of the Jazz that was played in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century.  

albumThis Latin tinge was a direct reference to the influence that the Cuban Habanera, a genre that was popular in the dance halls of Cuba at the end of the 19th century, had in the making of some of the local Jazz expressions that were produced in New Orleans. Along those lines, the proximity between New Orleans and Havana also allowed Cuban musicians to borrow elements from the early American Jazz”.Whereas Jazz in New Orleans arose from black blues and spiritual traditions, in Cuba their black musical traditions were preserved in a religion, Santeria.

Henceforward, the marriage of both styles became a call and response, improvisational approach where one musician offered a phrase and a second player answered it with a direct commentary or response to the offered phrase. Thus, the musicians build on each other’s offering and work together to move the song along and create a sound that’s inventive and collective. In Cuba, this improvisational approach was –and still is– known as “descarga”.

Based on that well-documented history, the Cuban Jazz Train, under the direction of Calixto Oviedo, was formed by a group of accomplished musicians whose main motivation was to revive those olden times improvising new melodies, harmonies, and danceable Cuban rhythms in order to generate their own new “tinge”

The Cover Story

For the last five decades, most Cd covers involving Cuban music have featured guaguancó dancers, musical instruments (congas, maracas, etc.), tropical scenery (beaches, palm trees, etc.) and old vintage cars. Since our tunes are a revival of that old historic mixture of Afro Cuban and the New Orleans original jazz sound, it made sense to name our ensemble the Cuban Jazz Train and display in our cover the most reliable form of transportation at the turn of the XX’s century, an “electric” locomotive.

train picAccordingly, we chose the first electric train to run in Cuba, built and run by the Hershey Chocolate Corporation of Pennsylvania, who in 1916 purchased large tracts of land to build a sugar mill 45 km east of Havana, about halfway between the capital and the Matanzas province.

That train was used to transport its produce to nearby ports as well as most of its workers to adjacent towns. In their heyday, Hershey built a network of 135 km of electric railways with electric passenger service between Matanzas and "Central Hershey" (the sugar mill). It began in January 1922 and was extended to Casablanca, across the bay from Havana, the following October. By 1924 Hershey Cuban had a fleet of 17 electric passenger cars and 7 electric locomotives.

In 1960 the Hershey Cuban Railway was renamed the Camilo Cienfuegos Division of Ferrocarriles de Cuba. Cuba's last electric line – "the world's last interurban" – continued unchanged for the next 40 years until, due to a declining sugar market, the Hershey sugar mill closed in July 2002, after 86 years of operation. Today, while still running, the future of the railway is uncertain reason why in the last few years, many world rail enthusiasts have visited the line.

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