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Cuba's Annual Jazz Festival “Jazz Plaza” Adds Virtual Chicago Stage Produced by Chicago's Hothouse

Marguerite Horberg, executive director of the award-winning Chicago-based nonprofit arts presenter HotHouse, announced that it has been awarded the exclusive rights to stream the 2021 legendary Cuban jazz festival “Jazz Plaza”

Jan. 21-24. The four-night festival, presented under the title HotHouse Meets Havana, will feature a nightly mix of the top Latin Jazz musicians based in Cuba, as well as critically acclaimed American jazz musicians, composers and scholars. The two-hour nightly programs, which will also be broadcast on television in Cuba, can be viewed on HotHouse’s recently launched streaming platform HotHouseGlobal.

Tickets ($25 for each program) go on sale Monday, Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. on

The producers of “Jazz Plaza” invited HotHouse to become the international presenter of “Jazz Plaza” following HotHouse’s production of the July Concert for Cuba, which was viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide. Horberg was also tapped to select the American musicians who will be performing as part of the Festival, and participating in a round table discussion, the only international components of the 2021 event. The 5 programs showcase a variety of contemporary composers and ensembles performing original music created especially for this occasion. HotHouse’s arrangement with the Institute of Cuban Music marks the first time that “Jazz Plaza” will be available to be enjoyed by an international audience. “Jazz Plaza” is one of the world’s most important international jazz events, typically featuring an array of Cuba’s top talent, a who’s who of international participants and up-and-comers,” said Horberg. “In celebration of HotHouse’s 34th year of presenting international music, we are thrilled to be able to bring this year’s program to an international audience, while also shining the spotlight on some of the most acclaimed talents working in Chicago today.”

The Chicago musicians participating in the program are as follows:

•Ensemble 1:Tomeka Reid with internationally established bassist Junius Paul. Reid was recently recognized as a “New Jazz Power Source” by the New York Times. •Solo Performance: Jazz Master Roscoe Mitchell, considered one of the key figures in avant-garde jazz, integrating influences from everywhere—world music, funk, rock, classical—to create music that is at once beautiful and complex.

•Ensemble 2: James Sanders with Gold Record Awardee Leandro Varady. Sanders is a bold presence in Chicago’s creative music movement and has performed around the world staying true to his Caribbean roots.

•Ensemble 3: Coco Elysses with Alexis Lombre and Ivan Taylor. Elysses won an ALTA Award for Best Original Music in a Play and was a featured musician in the critically claimed FOX TV drama Empire. Lombre is a young jazz pianist with a recently debuted album, “Southside Sounds,” that soulfully reflects on her upbringing on Chicago’s Southside.

•Ensemble 4: Ben La Mar Gay is a Chicago South Side native and renowned collaborator; his true composing technique is giving life to an idea while exploring and expanding on the term “Americana.” With other artists TBA.

•Ensemble 5: Hamid Drake is widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in jazz and improvised music, playing alongside many renowned artists. Additional artists TBA.

•Ensemble 6: Ari Brown with Yosef Ben Israel, Charles Heath. Brown has long been

considered by critics as a master saxophonist and one of the elder practitioners of “the Chicago sound” and an artist deserving of much greater recognition.

“In 2016, when President Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, HotHouse was awarded a US State Department grant to create a cultural exchange between Chicago and Guantanamo,” added Horberg. “This special award furthered our substantial work presenting Afro-descendant music, a hallmark of HotHouse’s projects since the 1980s. Now, with this special invitation to curate and exclusively broadcast the “Havana Jazz Festival,” one of the premiere music events in the world, is an additional great honor. It is even more exciting to have been given the opportunity to present some of my favorite Chicago-based musicians, artists HotHouse has nurtured for decades, as part of the festival, virtually bringing these artists to Cuba and showcasing their incredible talent to the international jazz community.”

The pre-recorded performances from Chicago were all performed within strict adherence to social distance practices. The Cuban performers and the specific schedule for each night will be announced at a future date. In addition to the music programs, HotHouse will host a panel discussion focusing on Afro-descendant musical traditions and bridge building between the two countries. The free event will feature Grammy award winning composer Arturo O’Farrill, veteran band leader Michele Rosewoman, and musicians James Sanders and Jean LeRoy.

For more information or for a link to the discussion, visit the HotHouse website.

The project is receiving support from the Cuban Instituto de la Musica and Ministereo de Cultura. Raul Cuza is an Executive Co-producer. The concerts are presented as a benefit for the non-profit 501c3 HotHouse as a fundraiser to support their ongoing work.

Jazz lovers and supporters of HotHouse can purchase individual tickets for each of the four programs for $25 or all four for $75. Programs will be streamed beginning at 7 p.m. CT nightly, and will be available for viewing continuously for 24 hours to allow viewers in any time zone to enjoy the concerts at a convenient time. The location of the program streams will be emailed in advance to ticket holders.

ABOUT HOTHOUSE A nonprofit, arts presenting organization formed in 1987 in Chicago, HotHouse ( has been one of the premiere cultural institutions in the US. In March, HotHouse developed an online streaming initiative to serve the NGO, small business, and cultural industries adversely affected during this health and economic crisis. The HotHouseGlobal channel facilitates a variety of multi-arts and community-based content and a worldwide network in the social justice and cultural sector. Since March more than 14,000,000 people have tuned in to HotHouseGlobal.

ABOUT MARGUERITE HORBERG Executive Director, Producer and Curator Marguerite Horberg founded HotHouse in 1987 and has been at the forefront of creating countless internationally recognized festivals public programs, and international exchange projects. She has been awarded Best of Chicago, Chicagoan of the Year and many other top honors for her work as a leader in groundbreaking cultural work. Her work in Cuba began in 1984 with various exchange projects and most recently she was the inspiration behind “Concert for Cuba” July 2020 and the resolution to normalize relations with Cuba in the Chicago City Council.ABOUT THE CUBAN INSTITUTE OF MUSIC The Cuban Institute of Music (ICM) is a department within the Ministry of Culture of Cuba and is one of the most important cultural institutions of the country. It is tasked with the implementation of the policy of development, promotion, and projection of music inside and outside the island. It has a system of subordinate institutions, which house more than 16,000 artists throughout the country. Today it is the governing institution of the Music Development Programs, whose ultimate objective is to achieve a stronger affinity with culture in the Cuban people, applying a strategy aimed at stimulating, developing and implementing actions supporting musical institutions throughout the country. ICM produces a variety of shows in the country that ensure the development, protection, enrichment, defense, and promotion of the musical heritage of the nation.


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