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JANE BUNNETT AND THE GUANTANAMO BLUES PROJECT. SUNDAY: PJC


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This Sunday,

Best Contemporary Jazz Album 2006 Juno Winner.

Jane Bunnett and the Guantanamo Radio Blues project band.

radio_guantanamo.jpg

Pepper Jack's

Sunday, October 22nd

8pm

Advance ticket $25, $30 day of show.

www.janebunnett.com

From www.thespec.com

SPECIAL TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Jane Bunnett brought music from Cuba for her CD the Radio Guantanamo Project, which won the Juno for contemporary jazz album this year.

Her goodwill concert rescued Jane Bunnett in Guantanamo

By Graham Rockingham

The Hamilton Spectator

More articles by this columnist

(Oct 19, 2006)

Jane Bunnett learned that playing music can be dangerous, especially when you're 10 minutes away from Guantanamo Bay.

The Toronto-based saxophonist has achieved international recognition, including three Juno awards and two Grammy nominations, largely for the music she has made with the traditional musicians of Cuba.

She's always had a good relationship with Communist authorities there, her jazzy explorations of Latin rhythms a symbol of Cuban-Canadian goodwill.

But things changed when she ventured to Guantanamo, a city on the island's southeast tip, abutting the infamous U.S. Guantanamo Bay naval base. It had taken her a full day to travel there from Havana for a recording session with a group of musicians who played changui, an old form of Cuban music played only in the Guantanamo region.

Not long after setting up her recording and video equipment the police arrived, putting a halt to the session. Guantanamo, after all, is one of the last bastions of the Cold War. Spies lurk in the shadows. All visitors are suspect. No one is necessarily who they say they are. It's easy to understand how the police found it hard to believe a Canadian jazz icon had come to play with local street musicians.

Bunnett is a spirited woman, never comfortable with authority figures. She probably made things worse by telling the police what she thought of them.

She and her husband, Larry Kramer, spent the next three hours in the local police station being interrogated. It could have been worse -- the cops even let them order out six cold beers -- but it was clear they weren't buying this "musicians" story. The whole scene seemed so ironic to Bunnett. They had just performed a special concert at the national theatre in Havana celebrating 60 years of good relations between Canada and Cuba. It had been on Cuban television and rerun several times. There was a TV playing in the station house.

"Wouldn't it be nice if that concert special came on the TV right now?" Bunnett thought out loud.

"Lo and behold, five minutes later, there we are on TV. I turned to the police and said 'Hey, idiot, that's me up there playing' ... and they said 'OK, you can go.' Just like that."

Despite the hassles -- there were a few more run-ins with the authorities during their stay in Guantanamo -- Bunnett came away with enough music recorded to provide a basis for the Radio Guantanamo Project CD, which won the Juno for contemporary jazz album this year.

The album also features Johnny Sansone, one of the better blues harmonica and Cajun accordion players in New Orleans. Bunnett learned through her friendship with Sansone -- they met at an Ottawa blues festival -- that Cuban and Cajun share many roots, going back to rum ships that once frequented New Orleans docks. Piano players like Jelly Roll Morton and Professor Longhair developed their boogie-woogie styles from listening to the music they heard played by Cuban deckhands.

Although Bunnett had never performed with a harmonica or accordion player before, the two musicians quickly found common ground.

"There's sort of a thing going on between the Cuban stuff and the Cajun," Bunnett says, explaining why she invited Sansone to take part in the Guantanamo project.

Sansone will perform a rare Canadian date with Bunnett's band when they play at the Pepper Jack Cafe on Sunday night. Also in the lineup will be Dennis Keldie on B-3 organ. The evening should be a treat since it also happens to be Bunnett's birthday.

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