Havana, even with its infrastructure crumbling and its cars belching black smoke, was as captivating as it was the first time I visited it. There was music everywhere as always and the weather was deliciously warm. I finally got to meet my friend Isabel Portuondo, a pianist with the national ballet. We met on one of those social media networks and we quickly became good friends. She proved to be an invaluable go-between when communications between myself and the festival organizers broke down. I have included here a photo of her, sandwiched between my friend Michael Yanover who accompanied me as road manager, and myself.
Shortly after our arrival in Havana, we went to the Institute of Popular Music where we were warmly greeted by the festival organizers. In a matter of minutes it felt like we were old friends and we were treated with utmost respect throughout the festival.
For the festival gigs I played with 3 marvelous young Cuban musicians whom I met through my friends here in Ottawa, pianist Miguel de Armas and his wife Yasmina Proveyer.
In fact –
My pianist in Havana was Miguel’s son Miguel Jr.
Bassist: Arturo Cruz and
Drummer: Ramses Rodriguez.
After only 2 rehearsals we played our first gig at Jardines del Teatro Mella. There were a couple of rough spots but no one knew but us and we otherwise played very well and were really well-received. In fact, a video clip from that performance was aired on Cuban TV the next day. And we got 2 write-ups in the festival magazine distributed each day of the festival.
Check out the PRESS section of my website for translations of these articles.
At our next gig at Cafe Miramar, we kicked some serious butt. It was definitely our best performance of the 3 gigs we played. We got some good video footage of that one, on my nifty ZOOM Q2HD camera which I got online for $100. Excellent sound for such a small insignificant-looking device. I put some of them here on the website. Go to the MEDIA tab and click My Youtube Channel.
Our final gig was outdoors at Pabellon Cuba. Although due to technical difficulties we went on an hour late and didn’t get a sound check, we did some hot playing here too. We were extremely well-received by musicians and festival-goers alike. Among the audiences we encountered were many foreigners from Canada, Europe, the U.S. and Latin America and they were highly appreciative of our music.
At the end of it all, I was rewarded with 2 big bottles of Havana Club dark rum, a beautiful festival poster featuring the Havana skyline at night and a personalized plaque commemorating my participation at the festival.
To reiterate, it was a superb experience, one which I will remember for the rest of my days.