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The next morning, we were back at work. This was Klimax day in the studio. Hector and Michel drove over to get Piloto’s drums, and we recorded the title song of the album, Entre La Habana Y El Yuma. Piloto was amazing to watch in the studio. What concentration, and how powerfully he plays!

After we got the basic tracks down, there was some confusion over the horns. I thought the Klimax horn players were coming to do the horn parts, but Piloto didn’t realize that they were needed, and couldn’t get a hold of them. Marcos called two of the very best session players in Havana, Alexander Abreu (trumpet) and Amaury Rodríguez (trombone), and they showed up an hour later, coming from another session. Marcos took over directing the session, and he was a slave driver! I could barely keep up with him just as an engineer. The chart was for two trumpets and two trombones, and we recorded the parts phrase by phrase, immediately doing the second trumpet part as soon as the first part was down, so the player could easily match the phrasing and articulations. I was switching tracks so fast I sometimes didn’t know which way was up. We worked a total of fourteen hours that day, but when we were done, the only thing left to do on the track was to add the acoustic piano and a few synth overdubs when I got back to el Yuma. Hard work, but it was a great lesson for me in working with horns, both for arranging and recording. I had always recorded the horns as a section, which is fine if the guys have played the tunes together on gigs and know the phrases. But having one guy do both trumpets and one guy do both trombones actually gives a tighter sound, because it’s much easier for a player to match his own articulations and cutoffs on the second part, especially when he had just recorded that phrase thirty seconds earlier.

The next day I worked in the studio mostly alone, fixing some piano tracks, and doing backups. This was the last day in the studio. After this, I planned to record some solos, but I didn’t need a studio, because I could make house calls with my machine. So with just two more days in town, we drove around Havana recording on location. First stop was Pupy’s house. We set up the machine in his office where he has a Roland digital piano. I played the track for him, and he played the solo. He asked who wrote the song. “I did,” I said. He seemed surprised. Then he asked who was playing piano on the track. Again, I said it was me. It turned out that even though we had spoken briefly after several of his gigs, that he didn’t realize that I was a musician. He thought I was an engineer just going around Havana recording. So I sat down at the piano and played the Pupy tumbaos that I’ve learned: Que Tiene Van Van, El Negro Está Cocinando, and Soy Todo. He broke out in a huge grin, and then asked me if I knew Kevin Moore (head timba freak of Of course I do! He went into the back of the house, and came back with two CDs and two Los Que Son, Son T-shirts. Christmas presents for Kevin and me! He signed the albums and asked if he could hear the tune we did with Klimax, so I played that for him. Meanwhile his wife brought us cafecitos and we talked for awhile.

After lunch, the next stop was Eduardo’s house to fix a few mistakes in the bass parts. We set the recorder up in his living room, and his wife poured rum for everyone. All the neighbors in the building came by and stood in the doorway watching Eduardo play, even though they couldn’t hear anything, we were wearing headphones. This is the way to record! No watching the clock and talk about relaxed! The rum was fueling my contentment, and I didn’t even need to listen to Eduardo, I knew he would get the parts right. I just relaxed in a big overstuffed chair, and punched in and out and enjoyed myself. After the fixes were done (there weren’t but a couple), we plugged the thing into his stereo so the neighbors and family could hear it.

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La Cominda Criolla:
Arroz con pollo

1 chicken, cut into pieces and slightly browned
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Bijol or saffron
1-2 cans beer
1 1/2 cups rice
canned pimiento strips

In a 4-6 quart pot, combine browned chicked pieces, water, salt, tomato sauce, onion, green pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, wine, vinegar and saffron. Cook until chicken is tender, about 30-40 mnutes.

Remove chicken and set aside. Add enough beer to liquid in the pot to make a total of 5 cups. Add rice and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionaly until rice is tender. Add more beer or water, if necessary, as rice should be moist. Mix in chicken and heat through. Top with pimiento strips and serve.

¡Buen aprovecha!

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