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Thursday, May 9, 2002 - the evening

Around 11:30 it was time to head out to La Macumba for my last night of musica cubana once again with Manolito Y Su Trabuco. Yusef offered to give me a lift. When we got there, I tried to get him in (I was on the guest list), but the Capitán didn't give a damn that he was in Klimax and refused to let him in. The cover charge tonight was $25, a crazy price in Habana. Yusef and his friend went around back to try getting in at the Musician’s entrance, but apparently didn’t have any luck there either, because that was the last I saw of them. Inside, Paquito (Trabuco’s road manager) and Javier the empresario sat me down at their table up front, complete with a bottle of Havana Club, a bucket of ice and glasses for everyone. Am I lucky or what?

Trabuco came on and started rocking as usual. Manolito had changed up the set list, and I was hoping he’d ask me to play on Marcando La Distancia, because that is a Trabuco tune I can play. But something even better happened when they played that song. Mayito Rivera of Van Van was in the audience, and El Indio insisted that he come up and sing. He came onstage, and the crowd went nuts. He starting singing, and maybe it was just my perception, but he sounded a little bit tentative. After he got done, El Indio put an arm on Mayito’s shoulder, and with a big smile, proceeded to blow him off the stage. “Let me show you how it’s done.” Mayito took another turn, and then El Indio outdid him again. This must be what it was like being at a “cutting session” back in the bebop days when Dizzy and Clifford Brown would try to out do the other. And down there in la habana, there is a minidisc recording of this night just waiting to be picked up. I can’t wait to hear it again.

They finished out the tune quoting Mas Que Nada, and the whole joint was singing with them: “O-ba, o-ba o-ba.” After the show I told El Indio that he had given Mayito a lesson. In typical humility, he denied it all, saying that Mayito wasn’t used to the band, didn’t know the song, etc. I said, sure, like he’s never heard Marcando La Distancia before. Indio cracked up. He knew. And don’t get me wrong: Mayito is one of the most powerful and amazing singers in Cuba today. People say he has a teclado (keyboard) in his throat, and it’s true: his intonation is flawless, and his delivery is killer. Hearing Mayito sing Soy Todo live with Van Van is literally like a religious experience. But this night, El Indio had the edge, and it was something to see.

I rode the bus back to la habana with the band. David (flute), Eduardo (bass), Evelio (congas) and I were all going to Vedado, and we got off at El Rápido at Calle 23 and 14 for a few beers and a bocadito. David had a little bottle of homemade Aguardiente de cana with him. This stuff has to be at least 150 proof, and is most likely the reason why I remember so little of the conversation we had there until five in the morning. While some of the specifics escape me now, I do remember that we laughed a lot and told lots of stories. I asked David why Trabuco didn’t play the title song from the new album live. “Cubans don’t dance to cha cha chá,” was the answer. Interesting. Both the new Manolito and Issac Delgado’s La Formula start off with cha cha chás. Apparently this is for European and American ears. It all rocks to me.

David insisted that the next time I come to Cuba that I come hang out at his house for some comida, a little descarga, lots of rum, and a general good time. He told me about the time he invited a Venezuelan piano player over and the guy would up staying for three days until David’s wife started getting a little irritated. It sounds like the party never stops at David’s house. One of the things I love about going to Cuba is that they are such a social people. I make more friends in two weeks than I do here in years.

I straggled home and slept until noon. I couldn’t have asked for a better last night in Habana.

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More live Trabuco from the Casa De La Musica. This is a mostly instrumental section of Tu Me Dijiste Mentiras that shows off the Trabuco groove.

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