When the history of Cuban jazz is written, Jane Bunnett will figure prominently in the chapters covering the past quarter century, an era of extraordinary innovation. A tireless champion for Cuban musicians who often struggle to gain a foothold outside their isolated nation, the Canadian soprano sax master and expert flutist ushered generations of male players onto international stages via her Spirits of Havana band. But in 2013, Bunnett suddenly shifted her focus to the long-overlooked wealth of talent represented by Cuban women.
Her band Maqueque, which earned a Juno Award for its eponymous 2014 debut album on Justin Time Records, has boosted the visibility of female Cuban musicians both on and outside the island. After helping catapult vocalist Dayme Arocena into stardom, the band has continued to evolve, receiving a GRAMMY nomination for their 2017 release Oddara. Maqueque’s stellar rhythm section features founding members Dánae Olano, Celia Jiménez, and Yissy García. They’re joined by two recent additions, Mary Paz and Melvis Santa, who gained attention as both a musician and actor since her work in the 2012 anthology film 7 Days in Havana. More than a band, Maqueque is the most visible manifestation of a movement that’s rewriting outdated thinking about the Cuban music scene.
«There’s joy and humor and infectious grooves in this uplifting music, along with first-rate musicality and formidable soloing.» -The Absolute Sound