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In the morning, Hector and Riverón came by, and we went off to look at places where we could record. Hector had heard about a place in Playa, and Piloto had given me the address of one in Vedado. We drove out to Playa, and looked at this little studio. I mean, it was tiny. The control room was about the size of a good walk-in closet. The studio on the other side of the glass was maybe eight feet square. And although these two rooms were adjacent to each other, to go from one to the other, you had to go down a flight of steep narrow stairs, and then up another flight of stairs to enter the studio. Weird layout. There was another recording room on the first floor, just a little sweatbox big enough for a set of congas. The acoustics in these rooms left a lot to be desired, and that’s being kind. But I just needed a place that was isolated from street noise, and could separate the drums and congas so they didn’t bleed into each other’s mics. I was a bit worried about the bad acoustics, but at this point, I was ready for anything. I didn’t have that much time left.

I told the guy we had one more place to look at, and that we’d let him know. We took off to look at the other place, but couldn’t find it. My Spanish is at its worst on the phone, and I probably wrote down the wrong address when I was getting the info from Piloto. We walked up and down the street, and asked people, but no one knew of a studio around there. So I decided to go with the place we had just seen, and we made arrangements to start the next day.

At night, there was always a show to catch, if not timba then jazz at La Zorra Y El Cuervo, where I was making friends with a lot of the staff, and sitting in whenever I could. I went there when Peruchín Jr. was playing, and he motioned for me to sit down at the piano before I could even get a cafecito to shake off the rum I had after dinner. He kept me at the piano all night, and we had a blast. Afterwards, I’d be too wound up to go to sleep, so I’d end up at El Rápido for a bocadito and a few beers until five in the morning.

In the morning, Hector, Michel and driver came, and we lugged all the equipment, including Riverón’s drums to the studio. We got everything set up and got the sounds on the drums and congas. Eduardo (bass) and I played in the control room, and Riverón was in the main studio with Evelio downstairs in the little room. Hell, all the rooms were little. As soon as we were ready to hit the red button and start recording, the lights went out. Power failure. The only light in the control room was coming from the digital recorder which was now being powered by the battery in the uninterruptible power supply. I was able to save the settings we had made. We went outside and waited for the lights to come back on. Four hours later, they did.

Now, if this had happened in LA (and it could have, with the rolling blackouts we had last summer), I would have stressed out, big time. But this was Cuba, where every taxi driver will tell you that “aqui la vida es más tranquila,” and the time we spent sitting outside waiting for the lights to come back on was some of the most pleasant time I’ve ever spent in Cuba. We drank cold beers and flirted mercilessly with every girl that walked by. We laughed and had fun, and got to know each other better. The electricity went out every day for the first four days we were there, but it was always a good time hanging out waiting for it to come back on. One of the tunes on the album is named in honor of those times, Esperando La Luz.

On one of the afternoons when we were sitting out there waiting for the lights to come on, El Indio wandered by. He was in the neighborhood, and pulled out the lyrics for Estar en Cuba that he had written. Again, they were just what I wanted. I was thrilled.

When there was electricity, we laid down the basic tracks to the tunes. It was incredible to me to be in this studio recording with the rhythm section of Trabuco. My joke was it’s Bill Y Su Trabuco. I told the guys that this would be a pretty good band if they had a better piano player. At times, it felt like a dream. I thought any minute now, my mother is going to shout, “Bill, it’s time to go to school,” and that would be the end of it.

At the end of one long day, Eduardo was getting a little cranky, and I knew it was time to get some rum. I sent Hector off to buy a bottle of Havana Club, and when he got back with it, Eduardo stood up and starting singing a coro to the playback of Esperando la luz: “Llegó mí ron! Llegó mí ron!” If I had had more time, I would have recorded that coro, it fit the track nicely.

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Useful phone
numbers in Havana

Casa De La Musica

Salon Rosado (Tropical)

Habana Cafe
(Hotel Cohiba)

Copa Room
(Hotel Riviera)

La Zorra Y El Cuervo

Jazz Cafe

(easy to memorize!)



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