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Playing With Fire: A Celebration of 10 Years of Jane Bunnett and Maqueque

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Jane Bunnett
Grammy Nominated and JUNO Winner Artist, Jane Bunnett

This is a momentous occasion. As Jane Bunnett explains: We never could have imagined how this band would evolve over these 10 years to bring us to the magic of Playing With Fire. The idea for Maqueque came out of a jam session at the Cohiba Hotel in Havana (across from the Malecón). After meeting and hearing a couple of these very young Cuban women, we were inspired to take a detour from our regular band (Spirits of Havana) and create a project with some of the finest women musicians and composers that had recently graduated from the conservatories.

There was so much creative energy there… but not many outlets. We also realized that many of the girls at the conservatories were not really encouraged to “take the stage” in a male dominated scene. We witnessed this first hand while taking music technicians, Jazz materials and instruments to Cuba for the conservatories through our longtime musical incentive Spirit of Music (an organization that assists Cuba’s conservatories), that the best way to solve this issue was to create a performance opportunity, which became an all female ensemble.

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: Playing with Fire
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: Playing with Fire

Maqueque is a co-operative featuring not only women players from Cuba, and now includes brilliant vocalist Joanna Majoko (from Zimbabwe) and has had musicians from the Dominican Republic, Latin America, Spain and Lebanon. The band has won a Juno Award, a Grammy nomination and regularly tours Europe, Latin America, and North America. They have played all the major clubs and festivals including Newport, Monterey, Saratoga, and does a yearly weekly stint at the legendary Birdland in New York City.

Downbeat Magazine picked this group as one of the Top Ten Touring Groups in the USA. NPR has created a feature titled “The New Queens Of Afro Cuban Jazz for their award-winning series Jazz Night In America with Christian Mcbride. The group appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

Playing with Fire is a stunning example of the strength and beauty of the evolution of Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. The newest member is also the youngest, Daniela Olano, the 19 year old violinist and composer who is also the little sister of pianist and founding member of Maqueque, Dánae Olano. Her composition “Daniela’s Theme” is on the new recording.

Additionally this album features very special guest guitarist Donna Grantis. An extraordinary talent on electric guitar, Donna has spent many years with the band 3RDEYEGIRL, the backing trio for Prince. She was a member up until his passing and provided much of the unique sound for this legendary all female trio.

YouTube Video – Jane Bunnett and Maqueque – Playing With Fire

How did Jane Bunnett connect with Donna? Like most girls they met over designer clothes. Maqueque played a party for the designers and owners of a unique clothing store in Toronto known as Call and Response. The band was invited to a show to hear Donna’s band and that sound stuck with Jane. Later when composing music for the new album in solitude up in the Northern Ontario woods Jane found that Donna’s sound and textures kept haunting her in her music. She decided to bring in Donna to work on the album.

Three pieces in particular are exemplary thanks to Donna’s contribution to the recording process: “A God Unknown,” “A Human Race” and “Sierra.” In addition to “Daniela’s Theme” are two surprising reworkings of Jazz classics: “Tempus Fugit” by pianist Bud Powell and “Jump Monk” by Charles Mingus. This is the first complete CD that vocalist Joanna Majoko is on, and she took the music to new heights as lead vocalist, improvising with a creative power in the studio that inspired everyone. The electrifying rhythm section including (the 2 founding members pianist Dánae Olano and drummer Yissy García) along with bassist Tailin Marrero (who wrote the beautiful track “Bolero A Un Sueño”) and percussionist Mary Paz are responsible for powering the band with absolute joy!

Early reviewers are saying great things about the album: “Playing with Fire is a stunning example of the strength and beauty of the evolution of Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.” writes the Boston Globe’s Jon Garelick. “Jane Bunnett and Maqueque utterly shatters the glass ceiling of Afro Cuban Jazz… There is still a way to go for women, but I am pleased that Jane Bunnett and Maqueque were there and participated passionately during this sea change in Jazz history.”

Playing With Fire will be released next March 10, 2023 on the Canadian label Linus Entertainment Records.

YouTube Audio – Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: Human Race

Web Publisher. Founder, Editor & Webmaster for Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report & That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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