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That afternoon was at the same time terrifying and big fun. If you’ve ever been to the Sunday rumbas there, you know how crowded it gets. There I am, with all this recording equipment and about nine mics, trying to get out of there with the performance recorded, and my equipment intact. They kept the rumba dancers out of the band’s area since we were recording, but the rum flows like water there, and during the second set, a dancer got up, and started doing some serious kung fu sort of moves inches from the mics. I nearly had a stroke, but this guy was good. He would spin and kick his leg over the mic stand, and never touched one. If you go, buy one of the CDs from the guys. All proceeds go to them. They’re a great band and they played their asses off that day.

That night I gave El Indio the demo of the song I wanted him to write lyrics for, and he came back with them finished the next day! And I loved them, they were perfect. I got Marcos to lend me a keyboard and managed to finish the song that I had been trying to write for two months in half an hour. Maybe there’s something in the water there, I don’t know. I scribbled out a few ideas for lyrics, along with the coro, and recorded a quick and dirty demo for El Indio and took it over to his apartment.

Now I was into my second week, and although I had been having a great time, I hadn’t recorded a thing. Every morning, Hector would show up and say, “Bill, there’s a problem.” It got to be a joke with us. The day we finally had everything lined up so we could actually record, Hector came to the door and said, “Bill, there’s a problem...” I must have looked like I was going to kill him, but then he cracked up, he was putting me on.

We piled the stuff into this jeep that Hector had borrowed (with driver) for the day, and headed out to Marianao. When we got there, no one had the key to the theater. Ay, Cuba! Piloto had arranged for me to use the place, but we only had until one o’clock when another band’s rehearsal started. Piloto finally arrived around ten, the key was found, and we got started. We had three hours to set up, get the sounds on the drums, run through the song (the musicians didn’t know it yet), and get it on tape. Hard drive, I mean. There isn’t any tape.

We were doing the basic track to La Gata Loca with Riverón on drums and timbales, Evelio on congas, Eduardo on baby bass, and myself on piano. Manolito lent me his piano to use for the recording. Marcos came around noon, and was a tremendous help. He took the score from me, conducted the band through the sections as we played, and cued in the changes. This enabled me to concentrate more on the piano, but it was a good thing I had planned to replace all the piano parts with acoustic piano after I got back to the States, because it’s not easy to be the producer, engineer and pianist at the same time, let alone conduct the group.

We got comfortable with the tune, and were recording it for the first time when the other band showed up for their one o’clock rehearsal. Marcos put a finger to his lips to keep them quiet, and we finished the take. It was good. Riverón played ferociously, and he and Evelio have worked together so much, it’s like there’s a MIDI cable connecting the two of them. At that point in time, I said to myself, if this basic track is all I manage to get down here, it will have been worth it.

But one thing was clear: recording in the theater wasn’t going to work out. It just wasn’t available enough, and Klimax had to use some of their rehearsal time there to prepare for some important jazz festival shows. I asked Hector to look around for somewhere else to record.

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