"…"Ochas," the three-part suite that will open Jazz at Lincoln Center’s season on Thursday, might rightly be taken as a grand statement honoring that bond. Or as an experiment in marrying the ritual rhythms and chants of Santería, the West African Yoruba religion as practiced in Cuba, with the musical language of Mr. Marsalis’s orchestra.
Mr. Marsalis, who composed the piece in collaboration with the pianist Chucho Valdés and percussionist and singer Pedrito Martinez, sees it in more intimate terms.
"This is all personal," he said in an interview from his Upper West Side home. "It’s about sharing, like you do in a family."
His father, the pianist Ellis Marsalis, introduced him to the music of Mr. Valdés, now 72 years old, a towering presence in Cuban music. With Irakere, the group Mr. Valdés led for nearly 30 years, as with his current band, the pianist did many things, including bringing the batá—the trio of two-headed hourglass-shaped drums essential to Santería—into a modern context informed by both Cuban traditions and jazz.
On the phone from Havana, Mr. Valdés recalled showing up at Mr. Marsalis’s home in 1996 with two pages of tumbaos, the melodic and rhythmic loops that ground Afro-Cuban popular music.
"Learn these," he told the trumpeter.
"Chucho has been like another father ever since," said Mr. Marsalis, who is 52.
And a collaborator: For Mr. Marsalis’s 2010 Cuban residency, Mr. Valdés composed “New Orleans,” in tribute to Mr. Marsalis’s hometown…”