PLAYING LECUONA

By Pavel GIROUD

LA ZANFOÑA PRODUCCIONES - as PROD

Documentary - Development 2013

PLAYING LECUONA is a journey through the work and
living spaces of pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona,
considered the most universal of Cubans. Three outstanding
Latin jazz piano players will guide us in this odyssey:
CHUCHO VALDES, MICHEL CAMILO, GONZALO RUBALCABA.

    • Year of production
    • 2013
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • SPAIN, VENEZUELA
    • Languages
    • SPANISH
    • Duration
    • 90 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Pavel GIROUD
    • Producer(s)
    • Gervasio IGLESIAS MACÍAS (LA ZANFOÑA PRODUCCIONES), Juanma BETANCORT (TROVA FILMS), Jose Daniel YAGRES RECHARD (COOPERATIVA HUMANA 029 R.L)
    • Synopsis
    • This story begins in the small town of Guanabacoa in Havana, as many other stories featured by Bola de Nieve or Rita Montaner. August goes away, and relative humidity of 87% grabs an old Steinway & Sons notes whose rhythm confuses with the drums and rumba boxes from a nearby solar. Every exorcism is in vain: nor being
      a descent from the Canary Islands, or be surnamed Lecuona as a charm can stem the tide of African rhythms coming into the old colonial house to welcome the Master. Four days after his birth, an elderly black woman approaches to contemplate him and says, “God bless you, genius.” And disappears into nothingness. People
      don’t know for sure if it was an angel dressed in rags or plain old black wisdom, the true is that prophecy came true. Ernesto Lecuona became the most universal Cuban composer. His hands achieved voluptuous sounds, moving between high and popular culture with a skillful and old goldsmith, turning that wild beauty of African rhythms or Hispanic sounds into a fine harmony.
      As an original composer, he was able to immortalize operettas, dances, waltzes, and many of his songs were about to become the anthem of an era. Cuba always worshiped him and the world acclaimed him. During the 40’s Japan knew there was an island called Cuba thanks to Ernesto Lecuona’s music. Hollywood surrendered to his feet; he was awarded an Oscar and soundtracked several films. In Spain, Andalusians rewarded him with the title of adopted son, while in Madrid; the Gran Vía becomes full of people eager to levitate with his music. Every year, the US, Argentina, Mexico and a host of countries vied for hiring master Lecuona for the next concert season.
      But success did not tarnish this genius’s rare modesty, much less his disposal to philanthropy. Throughout his life he discovered young talents who later became outstanding artists on and off the island. Lecuona’s life is full of mysteries: It is impossible to be a tropical Mozart and not keep secrets. Books tell the story of a genius but not of a man. And this documentary goes beyond that simple tour through his work. It aims to search
      those mysteries in his life, going beyond the testimonies of his acquaintances, deepening into his creations, which somehow portray both pains and happiness all through the creator’s life. But to rediscover Ernesto Lecuona
      it’s necessary to follow his track. Hence, these three outstanding pianists based in three very important countries in Lecuona’s life, have decided to join together in this attempt. Once more, Ernesto Lecuona takes a universal ticket from Cuba to the United States and Spain.
      In Cuba, with Chucho Valdes at the helm, we’ll be able to visit those places considered as possible inspirations
      sources by those who had the chance to know the master and where the teacher was forged and founded chair.
      Meanwhile, Gonzalo Rubalcaba gives us a warm welcome in Seville (Andalucia) to unveil Lecuona’s Hispanic roots as well as those places where the Master found inspiration for his lyrical compositions and operettas.
      In the meantime, Michel Camilo speaks from a changing but steady city: the summit of fame. The city where Lecuona performed several times and where the body of the most universal of Cubans lies. Finally, the three pianists came together in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands) in an unprecedented musical meeting. In
      the Lecuona’s homeland, a city with the air of Havana placed to the other side of the Atlantic, piano masters join their talents at the emblematic Tenerife Auditorium made by architect Calatrava.
      Such event puts an end to a vital route throughout the city where Ernesto Lecuona died in 1963. Internationally renowned artists joined to these three pianists to play Ernesto Lecuona in order to regain his universality in this journey the Master made. This tour stars with Chucho Valdes, Omara Portuondo and Muñequitos de Matanzas, or Huberal Herrera ; it continues in New York with Michel Camilo, Xiomara Laugart and Cuban-Americans Alfredo Valdes Jr. and Almendárez “Chocolate” and to end in Spain: first in Andalusia, with Gonzalo Rubalcaba accompanied by flamenco greats like Esperanza Fernandez and Raimundo Amador and finally, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where the genius died and his ancestors come from , the three pianists are given appointment with a luxurious close: Ana Belén playing the mythical “Siboney”.
      This journey weaves the evolution of Cuban music through Ernesto Lecuona’s work, ranging from classicism of palpable Spanish roots, to the Afro-Cuban style, to even the most avant-garde musical expressions of jazz and Latin jazz.
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