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Saturday, May 4, 2002

My notes for this day read: "Pupy." I guess I spent the day practising and meandering around Vedado. The big thing of the day was Pupy Y Los Que Son, Son at the Casa De La Musica.

I had planned to meet Osiris at El Rápido so we could ride to the gig together, but I was late getting back from dinner at a friend's, and he had already split. I got to the Casa too early, and browsed the little shop inside. Egrem's record shops are sort of as if you had to go to the Post Office to buy CDs. The guy working the counter doesn't know anything about the music, and could care less. The shelves most likely contain about 60 percent of what they have in stock, judging from the piles of boxes visible in the back, but why restock the shelves when Habana's beisbol team is whipping the team from Santiago, and it's down to the ninth inning? At least they sell beer.

I found Osiris at the bar next door, and we hung out and talked, and after awhile Leonel showed up. After the doors opened at La Casa, we went in and sat down and found ourselves at a table next to Changuito and the great pianista Alfredo Rodriguez, who remembered me from La Zorra Y El Cuervo when I sat in with Perchín Jr. I asked him if he was going to go back there tomorrow night, but he said he was returning to Paris where he now lives, and gave me his phone number. Changuito was his usual ebullient self, with a huge Cohiba and pouring plenty of rum for everyone.

Now comes the hard part: describing the impact and sound of Pupy's new band. All superlatives seem inadequate. Let's just say that this band is mighty and awesome, a powerful force that you need to feel. If you ever get the chance to hear them, go. Incredible, absolutely incredible. And Pupy, when playing with this band, looks twenty years younger. He plays standing up, and has a constant grin on his face, grooving and dancing as he plays those tumbaos that are so distinctively his own. Nobody plays like Pupy—he was not only an innovator in the role of piano in modern Cuban music, but his style is so well defined. There aren't that many musicians who can do that.

Although there was a timbalero in the band, along with a conguero and trap drummer, Changuito took charge of the percussion section and played bloques and solos on timbales and a little electronic Yamaha drum pad. As the chief elder statesman of Cuban percussion, he doesn't have to work full time, and he was having a ball on stage.

I wish I had a more detailed report of what they played, but as the music went on, I found myself in that state of musical bliss, where I was just grooving to the music. I'm not much of a dancer, but I was grabbing chicas to dance with, because you just couldn't sit still when these guys were playing. Later, after the show, I freaked out one of these chicas (a particularly linda one named Areilas) by using Mozart's line from Amadeus in Spanish: "¿Quieres casarte conmigo, si o no?" ("Will you marry me, yes or no?"). She did give me her phone number, but I never got the chance to call her up for a date. Another reason to get back to La Habana soon

After the show, I went backstage and congratulated Pupy. "¡Que Fuerza! ¡Increible! ¡Que lástima por Van Van!"

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Pupy Y Los Que Son, Son live at the Casa De La Musica in Habana.

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A trademark Pupy tumbao. Note the harmony and contrapuntal movement between the left and right hands. Tricky stuff.

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