To say the name Valdés, in the world of Cuban music, is to invoke jazz, swing, improvisation and other words that refer to that genre.
Lazarito Valdés, a well-known Cuban musician, arranger, and composer, leader of the popular band Bamboleo and an heir to the musical legacy of his surname, opened a new place a couple of months ago where music lovers can go to enjoy themselves; the Valdés Jazz Club.
Located at 105 Calle E, between Quinta and Calzada streets in Havana’s Vedado district, this new temple to music and cuisine is a place where flavor and sound converge.
Carefully decorated, the club comprises a cafeteria, restaurant and bar, and in the evening it mutates and becomes an attractive jazz club. It also has a large smoking area, with a splendid terrace, or courtyard.
Photos of relatives, singers and musicians decorate its walls. The acoustics are fantastic, allowing the public to enjoy a good show. Every night, a different artist performs and the program is very open and constantly renovated. Maestro musicians such as José Luis Cortés, Bobby Carcassés, and Maraca are regulars, although others have brought a fusion of jazz and other genres, such as singers Kelvis Ochoa and Tania Pantoja, among others, including newcomers and veterans.
“In my home, people always cooked. My grandfather, who is the forerunner of the musical part of our family, was a very good cook, along with my great-uncles, who were also musicians,” Lazarito told OnCuba.
“My dad is one of the best, especially with Asian cuisine, and especially with Chinese cuisine, because he always alternated between that passion and music from a very young age, when he first got into martial arts. That’s where he met my godfather, Miguel Chang, a judo pioneer in Cuba. He would go with him every day to eat in Havana’s Chinatown, and to learn about China’s food traditions. In addition, my grandfather very much liked Spanish food; he was always cooking fabada [bean stew], ham and potatoes, paella, and other delicacies, and as a little boy I became familiar with many different flavors. That’s how my culinary passion was born, in sync with music and the opportunity of opening this place. I’m really pleased, really happy.”
The new restaurant’s menu proposes fusion cuisine, with a predomination of international and stylized Cuban dishes. It features seafood in a variety of preparations, and also a diversity of meat dishes and soups. This surprising space offers the public the possibility of enjoying contemporary trends in mixology, the art and passion of mixing flavors, textures and colors in beverages and foods, very much in vogue in bartending all over the world. Its wine list also features a notably wide variety.
“The menu is based on dishes prepared by my ancestors, and there are also creations of my own, such as rice with ‘an artistic touch,’ which has a little bit of everything. We serve Arroz Valdés, similar to fried rice, but using a secret récipe that we can’t reveal because therein lies its charm,” the musican-cum-cook told us.
Modern times and tradition converge at the Valdés Jazz Club, where our traditional Cuban cocktails are enhanced with today’s trends. Spices like pepper and colorful tropical fruits give originality to its beverages, such as the house cocktail, the Cosmopolitan Valdés Jazz.
“We always wanted to have a place for playing Cuban jazz, a place where musicians could perform their work. In the short time that we’ve been open, we’ve become like home for many of our artists,” Valdés told us.