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Friday, May 3, 2002

Another day of changed plans. Originally, I was going to have a session with the Pianista of Estrellas Cubanas, Eduardo Cana Olivia. He wanted to learn some jazz voicings, and I wanted to steal some of his killer tumbaos. I showed up at Leonel Costa's house and found out that Don Eduardo had to be at a rehearsal of the Estrellas, so we went over there.

The group was sounding much better at the rehearsal than they had at the Tropical the other night. Much more energy. Maybe it's because Rene doesn't allow any drinking at the rehearsal. When Leonel and I got thirsty (it doesn't take very long in La Habana), we went around the corner to buy some beer and cool off. I told Leonel about the recording session I was going to that night and that tomorrow night Pupy was playing the Casa De La Musica. He got sort of a sad faraway look in his eyes when I asked him if he was going to go. "No money," he said. I fished a ten out of my pocket and told him he should go—after all, Pupy has the best new group in Habana. He said, "you know, I'm not asking for this." I told him no problem. Leonel is a good cat, just a fellow musician, definitely not a jinetero, and I was glad to give him the bread for the show.

Back at the rehearsal, I stood behind Eduardo and studied what he was playing. He appears to be in his seventies, and has the whole history of Son and Danzón at his fingertips. A very elegant player. After awhile, Rene invited me to play with the group, and that was a complete kick. Eduardo started off the classic La Negra Tomasa, and then I sat down and played a solo and attempted the tumbao I had seen Eduardo play. What fun to play with guys like these.

Later in the afternoon, I went around Vedado to cancel out the previous engagements I had set up. I stopped at Chucho "El Capitalista's" house and explained to his mother to tell him that I wouldn't be at the Habana Cafe for Issac Delgado's show that night. Chucho had reserved a table and bribed the appropriate people so that if I paid Chucho the entrance fee, I would not only get in, but be at a table of six along with two bottles of rum, cervezas, etc. All that, and who knows how much of the $25 would go into Chucho's pocket. A true wheeler-dealer.

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Finding the music
in Havana

Finding out who's playing where is always a mystery in Havana. Even band members often don't know about a gig until a couple of hours beforehand. There's a weekly bilingual tourist newspaper, the Cartalera, that is distributed in the hotels, but it doesn't list the shows at places like the Casa De La Musica. Ask around, and follow Kevin Moore's advice from a post he made on rec.music.afro-latin:

Call each every night around dinner...it keeps changing

don't start drinking til you see the whites of their eyes...sometimes
the main band won't start til 2:00

watch for sunday "matinees" which start as early as 8:00 at Chevere
and sometimes the Marina (papa's) [also check the matinees at Casa de la Musica]

here's all the spanish you'll need:
a) "¿Quién toca allí esta noche?"
b) ¿y mañana? ¿y miércoles? (but check again the next day to make sure)
c) ¿cuándo comience? (don't believe them...it's later)
d) ¿hay dos grupos o solo uno?

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