next day was my last day in Havana, and my only task was to capture
a piano solo from Manolito. I took the recorder over to his house
in the afternoon, and we spent a relaxed and enjoyable time recording
his solo, sipping the J&B scotch I had brought him as a Christmas
present. I could hardly believe my luck. I had gone from feeling
like I would be lucky if all I got was the basic track to La
Gata Loca to an embarrassment of riches. I managed to record
everything I had wanted to, and more.
In a strange stroke of synchronicity,
all three of the groups I had been working with had gigs that day,
and I thought how cool it would be to hear them all in one day,
the day before I have to leave. Manolito had a private gig for some
governmental organization, and no one knew the location, not even
Paquito, his manager. Ay, Cuba! We waited and waited for the bus
to come, because supposedly only the bus driver knew where the gig
was. I decided to run my equipment back to my place, and just as
I was getting back, ten minutes later, the bus pulled away. It turned
out that they never played, because the power was out at the gig
But I did get to hear Klimax play
a matinee at Casa De La Musica, and that night it was Pupy Y Los
Que Son, Son at the same place. Great doubleheader to end the trip.
Back in El Yuma, I needed to get
the horns done on some of the tunes so that I could present rough
mixes of the album as a work in progress at Midem in Cannes, France
in late January. Jimmy Branly let me use his studio in Burbank,
and we laid down the horns to most of the Cuban stuff in one afternoon.
Luis Eric, a Habanero formally with Paulito FG, played both trumpet
parts, and Francisco Torres of Poncho Sanchez band played
both trombone parts.
After I got back from Europe in February,
I sat down to finish the arrangements on the tunes that I had to
record with the LA guys. The only problem was that they sounded
lame to me compared to the stuff I got recorded in Cuba. I threw
them all out, and started writing. I spent the entire month of February
writing until I had the tunes that I felt were just as good as the
earlier sessions. The last thing I wanted was for the LA part of
the record to be inferior to the Cuban part. That would be a disservice
to the great LA-based Cuban musicians that played on it!
in March, we started recording, first basic tracks with Jimmy Branly,
Conrado Coky Garcia and Rigoberto Lopéz. All
of them are from Havana, and have played with people like NG La
Banda, Issac Delgado, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Adalberto Alvarez. Jimmy
is great to work with in the studio. Hes so comfortable working
with me now, that when he hears a percussion break on my demo that
doesnt grab him, he just says, were going to do
something different here. And its always better than
what I had come up with.
Due to scheduling problems, we wound
up having to do the horns for six tunes all in one day. We had this
marathon session in Francisco Torres garage. He and Luis Eric
each did the work of two players on each tune, and a bunch of solos
on six tunes in one session. Oh yeah, they did the coros on that
session, too. We started at three in the afternoon, and finally
got done at 2:15 in the morning.
I spent most of April mixing and
mastering. I was able to complete the project in enough time to
have finished copies to take to Cuba with me. I had promised everyone
in Havana that played on it that I would bring finished copes the
next time I came, and I made good on that promise. All of the musicians
gave the CD great reviews, and loved the stuff we did in LA. It
felt great to see their enthusiasm for it. It was a ton of work,
but an experience that Ill remember my whole life.
Thanks again to everyone that helped
me make this CD. I had a lot of help from some great people. I could
have called the album With A Little Help From My Friends.
but that titles been used.
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