George Haslam, the Preston-born baritone saxophonist, is proud to tell that he led the first British jazz band - a quintet - to perform in revolutionary Cuba in 1986.
And with the Greenwich trombonist Paul Rutherford he brought free improvisation to Havana in 1988.
He remembers that playing at the same venue in 1988 was a 13-piece salsa band. He and Rutherford persuaded them, at first reluctantly, to join them in a free jazz rendition on the bandstand.
They had never encountered the music before but nervously agreed. Eventually, the two Englishmen stepped unobtrusively down, leaving the 13 Cubans improvising with their own Caribbean freedom and invention. Thus was free jazz brought to Cuba!
Perhaps there are echoes of that night in the marvellous album Cuban Meltdown. The first five tracks were recorded in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in 2004 with two Cubans reliving those pioneering days, flugelhornist and percussionist Bobby Carcasses and vocalist Maria Cecilia Colon, who joined Haslam and Rutherford in a binational octet playing this time like Cubans.
Hear the astonishing Rutherford playing in the way of a true Habanero on Villancico's Blues or Haslam's throaty, sucking undertow on A Perfect Love. Carcasses sings appealingly on his unity opus, Havanabingdon, and plays some rich and mellow flugelhorn followed by some moving choruses from Haslam and Rutherford, creating a praise-song to internationalism.
The last four tracks are Cuban-born and recorded in Havana, two of them with Carcasses's outstanding home-based octet. Bobby's son Roberto is featured on piano to compelling effect. Haslam and Carcasses renew old friendship on the final two tracks, recorded in 2007, with Blues for Benny More a particular jewel. Carcasses sings and plays a nimble, blues-laden piano before switching to flugelhorn, and Haslam finds his Caribbean element, completing a unique and powerfully engaging album.
Haslam has also been a courageous cultural ambassador to Argentina since the decade following the war in the Malvinas. He was the first British jazz musician to play in the country and began to record in Buenos Aires during his first visit in 1991.
He has cut three albums of his Argentine Adventures, playing with some truly impressive local musicians including pianist Ruben Ferrero and tenorist Daniel Harari.
On a more recent visit in September 2006 he recorded the sessions which compose the inspiring album September Spring, and by sheer coincidence this sojourn coincided with the visit of the eminent New York bassist Hilliard Greene who has been a pivotal presence on recordings by some of the prime US free spirits from trumpeter Roy Campbell and violinist Leroy Jenkins to tenorist Charles Gayle.
Argentinian bassist Mono Hurtado begins the opening track Bajo Profundo with a deep, deep volley like a fogbound ship on the River Plate estuary and Haslam's low entry is like a fellow lost craft - a low-down rhapsody indeed, beautifully played.
Percussionist Horacio Straijer splashes between Haslam's bass clarinet and Hurtado on Baile con las Pulgas and Harari's second horn gives Cumbre Coghlan and 4x1=1x4 an extra weight and fluidity, implanted by Hurtado's relentless and earthen bass power.
Straijer bangs on a can among other surfaces in the latter piece, Hurtado saws with his bow before Haslam's solo baritone exhales a lyrical song of intense and complex beauty.
The trio session with Greene and Ferrero took place the following day.
Haslam plays bass clarinet on Amigos Nuevos and Ferrero moves to kalimba and sings beside Haslam's long and breathy notes in Tranquilo.
Greene plucks the locomotive power on Early Morning Train, which is almost Ellingtonian in its sonic train depiction, with Haslam's baritone playing the Harry Carney role.
North in the Americas comes further than the deep south in the trio's version of the spiritual Wade in the Water.
This is Greene's history in particular and it is his visceral bow which grinds out the theme, with Ferrero's crashing notes and Haslam's transatlantic empathy in close engagement.
The threesome's raw and mutual solidarity binds together a memorable performance, as deep as the past.
As for the Ferrero/Haslam duo, Vidala y Vidala, essayed by an Englishman and an Argentinian in combined artistry and jazz comradeship, it explodes all the militarism and Thatcherism that ever came between these two faraway peoples.
Springtime it was in the south of the world where men had fought and killed each other in competing authoritarianisms two decades before.
And the music budded with peace, jazz and promise.
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