The Jazz Café, real in a surreal Havana shopping mall

Havana, Cuba, Jazz Café, Roberto Fonseca, Jazz, musician, pianist

Imagine a Soviet 80s tiny shopping mall -although shopping was not exactly a Soviet trend – in Havana, on the Malécon. Difficult to even point out it is a shopping mall. Thankfully, it says “Jazz Café” outside and it looks like this already legendary venue is part of it… on the first floor. You can only access it after going up a massive large snail shaped ramp. What did the architect have in mind? I wonder. Well he obviously liked curves.

Don’t expect combining a bit of shopping with jazz and cocktails. Only 2 or 3 shops look open and sell clothes which might be in fashion again in a couple of years as we all know fashion works in cycles. Actually you might as well try to shop, be ahead of your time and pretentiously launch a Cuban hipstery trend… But the smell – which is real and not surreal – could deter you from doing so. It strongly smells of damp in the Soviet shopping mall. So maybe the only way to escape it is to directly get to the Jazz Café. On the way, you’ll have the best ever experience of macabre advertising. Some mannequins dressed with the “new collection” are exhibited in glass or transparent weirdly lit sorts of coffins… Spooky and surreal and real…

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Opening the door to the Jazz Café just gives you a feeling of relief : one) it’s cool and nicely air-conditioned, two) the space is brilliant, curvy, with long glass windows offering a view on the Malécon. You suddenly feel reconciled with Soviet architecture and the best is yet to come. Because you are not here by chance, you are at the Jazz Café because you want to listen to Jazz. And have a drink – or a few – and possibly eat… Well you’ll be able to do all of this, love it (the food is excellent and cheap) and want to do it again. At the Jazz Café, la crème de la crème of the Cuban Jazz musicians play almost every night. I must admit I experienced an overdose of Jazz in my childhood because of a Sidney Bechet and Miles Davis obsessed father but the Jazz Café in Havana changed my perception of jazz forever. And particularly a wonderful pianist called Roberto Fonseca. A musical, atmospherical and multi sensorial treasure really…

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