When Carlos Averhoff Jr. was only nine years old, he began playing music. His instrument of choice was the saxophone – just like his father.
Saxophonist Carlos Averhoff Sr. was a renowned Cuban musician in the Latin jazz world. He was a founding member of the internationally recognized Cuban jazz group, Irakere; in 1980, he received a Grammy Award for the album of the same name. Throughout his lifetime, the elder Averhoff collaborated with prominent musicians such as Chucho Valdés, Paquito D’Rivera and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. He was a music professor at FIU, where he impacted the lives of numerous students until his death in 2016.
To honor his legacy, his son – today a Latin Grammy nominated tenor saxophonist, contemporary Afro-Cuban Jazz composer and educator – will direct this year’s Classically Cuban Concert on Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center at Modesto A. Maidique Campus, hosted by the Cuban Research Institute, part of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.
“The Cuban Research Institute is pleased to recognize the work of Carlos Averhoff Sr.,” Cuban Research Institute Director Jorge Duany says. “Mr. Averhoff made a significant contribution to the development of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz, since his days as a founding member of the Cuban ensembles Irakere and NG La Banda to his memorable performances in Little Havana and his teaching of several generations of music students in Miami.”
Titled “Together: In Memory of Carlos Averhoff Sr.,” the concert boasts an impressive lineup of artists – all of which performed with the musician during his lifetime. The set list includes Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch and flutist Nestor Torres; vocalist Malena Burke; and pianist and composer Manuel Valera. They will be interpreting pieces the elder Averhoff performed during his incredible career.
“I am very happy that we are going to celebrate this concert at FIU, the place he was working until his last days,” Averhoff Jr. says. “He had a lot of students and former students from FIU, part of his life was here. We are going to bring this energy, remember him and try to share some stories, try to play for him.
“The artists are bringing their personal approach of what they are feeling about my dad.”
At the concert, the younger Averhoff will play several tunes from his father’s albums. He will also play a piece he was able to record with his father in the summer of 2016, just a few months before the musician’s death. This piece and various others were originally intended for Averhoff Jr.’s special album, “Together,” – a labor of love that he envisioned as an album father and son would, as the title suggests, work on together.
His father’s death cut short their collaboration, but his son is thankful they were able to record at least one piece together. At the concert, he plans to play his father’s saxophone.
From his love of music to his passion for teaching, the younger Averhoff says his father influenced him in countless ways – even in some ways he only recently realized.
Growing up, Averhoff Jr. recalls he never listened to his dad’s advice about music. He did, however, listen to his music teacher.
“My former teacher and I had a conversation about four or five months ago. He told me, ‘Your dad was telling me what to teach you.’”
Junior adds with a laugh: “I never saw that coming. It was wise. I was so scared of this hard-core teacher. Between a parent and a son, things would have been more relaxed.”
Averhoff Jr. says his relationship with his father was unique – something that both transcended the regular father-son relationship and, at the same time, was made even more special because of that relationship.
“There was this respect we shared as musicians – it’s amazing,” he explains. “I wanted to be a bit like him and he wanted to be a bit like me. On the spiritual level, I was his kid. Later on, he told me I was [acting as if I were] his father – I’m very serious, and I would tell him what to do,” he says, recalling when his father would ask him about his own practicing techniques.
“There was that level of respect. My father was an artist, a teacher, an educator.’”