“A Nightmare in Havana”

The great Paquito D’Rivera on the JVC Jazz Festival’s presentation of a “Night in Havana”. Posted without comment.

As a regular goer to the JVC Jazz Festival for more than 25 years, I
went to see John Holland’s documentary “A Night in Havana”, about Dizzy
Gillespie’s second visit to the once beautiful capital city of my
impoverished country in 1988. Well, I must tell you that my second visit to
the rather mediocre flick was even more deceptive than the first. Mainly
because this time I stoically stayed till the end, enduring all the
oddities, the hypocrisy, the snobbishness and even having to put up with
the repugnant presence of the oldest dictator on this planet, absurdly
mixed with a certainly dearest––yet ill-advised––representative of an
art form that epitomizes the very concept of artistic and personal
freedom. It’s worthy to remark that while Dizzy was proudly posing with
Castro at his luxurious office, the Cuban government denied my son and his
mother their exit visas for the eighth year in a row. Painfully enough,
Dizzy, my mentor and great supporter of my Jazz career, was pretty much
aware of the injustices against my family for the longest time. A few
words from his mouth to the ear of the tyrant would probably have put my
family in the JFK airport in a matter of days. But unfortunately, those
magical words were never pronounced. I lost my marriage. The rest is

Musically speaking, that movie is no big deal either; and Gillespie’s
comparative commentaries about a country he didn’t know at all, were
inaccurate and superficial. So, having on hand so much footage of Dizzy’s
masterful performances, why portraying him in such an embarrassing
environment? ––Dizzy in Cuba was commercially very rentable–– answered
filmmaker Holland. For my money, marketing our misery is cruel, racist and

On the other hand, a great number of the Cuban musicians on tape are
now living far away from the “paradise island” that Mr. Gillespie
describes on camera. Among them Arturo Sandoval, whose spectacular defection
from that European tour, was backed up by Dizzy himself, using his
contacts at the Reagan’s White House.

In my opinion, to insist in distributing this outdated film is
misleading, and the use of a charismatic and prestigious figure like Dizzy
Gillespie to promote such a foul society is irresponsible,
immoral and poisonous for our youngsters.

From 1960, the George Wein Jazz organization have been presenting
nothing but ”la crème de la crème” on their events. So I bet they have
better choices than that crappy flick, don’t they?


Paquito D’Rivera
NEA Jazz Master
2006 recipient National Medal of the Arts

Via NetforCuba

2 thoughts on ““A Nightmare in Havana””

  1. You’ve got to love Paquito! Unlike other cowardly folks from whose lips you will not hear uttered even the slightest criticism of the Caribo tyrannosaurus, Paquito will speak his piece over and over and over again [and in the most adamant words possible] without caring that as an artist and an entertainer, he has the most to lose in a cultural environment/industry that is run by left where Castro and Che are ICONS! Kudos to Paquito! What a principaled and intellectually honest guy!

  2. Paquito is great. I have seen him at anti castro demos in NYC. He pulls up in a cab and he is just one of us – no attitude no snobbery.

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