It must be the pure love of the music that drives them Jane Bunnett and husband Larry Cramer. The rigors of the road can take a toll as they shepherd their ever-evolving band of Cuban artists and they do it in a home-style relaxed manner with Trumpeter Larry Cramer also serving as road manager for the crew. For their Sunday night date at Victors on the Bay in San Diego the Bass did not arrive with the band a full sized acoustic bass mysteriously vanished without a trace. After many frantic calls a bass was found and the show started an hour and a half late, with die-hard fans waiting patiently. Jane made it all worthwhile with her opening unaccompanied solo then took it to a new level as the band kicked in. She is hands down one of the best soprano saxophonists in the world period - evidencing total command of her instrument and a seemingly limitless wealth of musical ideas and energy.
When I saw the band 3 years ago it included a 13-year-old drummer Lucumi whose powerful presence and spirit calling solos evoked pure awe. They found him on the streets in dire straits and Jane and Larry managed to get him to Canada with hope of getting him in School This tour they have again taken into their hearts and home another young Cuban artists- pianist David Virelles, a tall lanky 19 year old with the face of an angel, long, long fingers and a gentle sweet smile. One can’t help but wonder how he will sound in his maturity but right now it a joy to hear him execute impossible technical feats with a look of pure delight on his face. Larry and Jane met him at a musical conservatory in Cuba where they were bringing instruments and assistance. For unlike the dreaded " Culture Vultures" who take the riches of various indigenous cultures then go off and make a career using the borrowed treasures and never look back- Jane and Larry are committed to giving back. They know the value of the gift they have been given. This is not a flirtation they have with Cuban music- this is a deep passionate life changing love affair. This is personal. This is family. This is put your money where you mouth is hard-core commitment.
When Jane won a Canadian artistic achievement award, she took the honorarium and brought the young pianist she had met at the conservator to her home where he stayed and began working with the band and is currently enrolled in University
Cuban Drummer Francisco Mela is based in Boston where he sat in with Bunnett and subsequently joined the tour. He has total control of dynamics and is able to hold a vicious groove while playing very softly then pulls out all stops to thunder and roar. He supports and feeds the soloists with great sensitivity and takes his solos with the bravado of a born showman pacing himself and building to a thunderous climax. It was Francisco Mela who brought Bassist Petar Slovar into the group who is originally from Bulgaria and also based now in Boston. He is a tall young, darkly handsome man who easily handled the full sized bass. He has a big fat sound and a deep understanding of Cuban music. Jesus Diaz from Oakland performed on Congas and Vocals. He is an arranger, composer and all round great musician. Bay area musicians refer to him as the most talented guy on the scene today and he is highly respected here and in Cuba. Larry Cramer did his usual beautiful work on trumpet and flugle. The ensemble work with Jane is flawless and the flute and flugel combination is particularly beautiful. Besides working her flute magic, Jane Bunnett also played a double reed instrument from Santiago Cuba, which has a piercing ancient sound that goes to your bones.
They played a second show to a depleted but deeply appreciative audience. It is obvious Jane Bunnett and Larry Kramer have grasped what is the most essential element of Cuban music- love deep in the soul love.
And that is why they do it, for the love.