About Jane Bunnett
A Grammy Award-winning soprano saxophonist/flutist known primarily for her fluid Afro-Cuban jazz style, Toronto native Jane Bunnett emerged in the late 1980s with In Dew Time. She went on to collaborate with some of Cuba's top jazz musicians, including on her second album, 1991's Spirits of Havana, before making her Blue Note label debut with 1996's Jane Bunnett and the Cuban Piano Masters. She took a brief sabbatical from Afro-Cuban music for 2002's Spirituals & Dedications before returning with Cuban Odyssey in 2003, an album that earned her both Juno and Grammy awards. In 2011, she partnered with frequent collaborator Hilario Durán for Cuban Rhapsody before a multi-recording partnership with Cuban jazz sextet Maqueque resulted in a Billboard Jazz Albums chart appearance for 2019's On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme, their third collaboration.
Born in Toronto in 1956, Mary Jane Bunnett originally studied classical piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music, but tendonitis cut short that career path. After seeing the Charles Mingus group perform in San Francisco, she was inspired to play advanced jazz. The influence of Steve Lacy, with whom she studied in Paris, is evident in her work on the soprano saxophone, while her flute playing is rooted in classical study in Canada.
Bunnett's first of several albums with pianist Don Pullen, her 1988 Dark Light label debut, In Dew Time, also featured saxophonist Dewey Redman and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, her most-frequent collaborator. She followed it up with a duet album with Pullen titled New York Duets in 1989. A year later, Live at Sweet Basil featured the quintet lineup of Bunnett, Cramer, Pullen, bassist Kieran Overs, and drummer Billy Hart. Her adventurous 1991 effort, Spirits of Havana, found her playing with the likes of vocalist Merceditas Valdés and pianists Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Hilario Durán, among many other participants. Cramer, Pullen, Overs, and Hart returned for 1994's The Water Is Wide, which added singers Jeanne Lee and Sheila Jordan to the mix. In 1995 and 1995, respectively, she issued Rendez-Vous Brazil/Cuba and the Cramer-produced Jane Bunnett and Cuban Piano Masters, the latter her debut for Blue Note.
The Naxos release Havana Flute Summit appeared in 1997 before she returned with her Blue Note follow-up, Chamalongo. Arriving in 1998, it was credited to Jane Bunnett & the Spirits of Havana, as was 2000's Ritmo & Soul. She issued Alma de Santiago in 2001 before offering a mix of original compositions, traditional hymns, and works by the likes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stanley Cowell, and Mingus on Spirituals & Dedications, which included a tribute to Pullen. Bunnett took home Juno and Grammy awards (for Best Global and Best Latin Jazz Album, respectively) for the following year's Cuban Odyssey. It featured another extensive guest list, including Valdés, Durán, and drummer Francisco Mela.
Bunnett then collaborated with the Penderecki String Quartet for 2004's Red Dragonfly (aka Tombo), and two years later, Radio Guantánamo: Guantánamo Blues Project, Vol. 1 featured the percussion ensembles Grupo Changui de Santiago and Grupo Changui de Guantanamo as well as Redman, Cramer, and others. It won the Juno Award for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year. Bunnett enlisted the Afro-Cuban/Haitian a cappella choir Grupo Vocal Desandann for 2008's Embracing Voices, which earned her a second Juno in the same category.
In 2011, Bunnett paired with Durán on the Alma Records release Cuban Rhapsody. The woodwindist next joined forces with Linus Entertainment and Cuban (all-female) jazz group Maqueque for a trio of albums: 2014's Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, 2016's Oddara, and the 2019 long-player On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme. The latter reached the Top Ten of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, peaking at number eight. ~ Marcy Donelson & Scott Yanow
HOMETOWNToronto, Ontario, Canada
BORNOctober 22, 1956