It's been a few days and I feel guilty for not writing but so much has happened to me of late and I haven't had time. Now I've certainly got something to write about.
If you remember, three days ago I was incredibly tired and although I went to bed at 6pm,
try as I might, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned, listened to a meditation cd, watched some Mexican reality TV but nothing worked. Something niggled at me, something out there and not in my room.
It was about 11pm and I decided to get up and walk up to Caille Obispo, the main tourist section of old Havana. Where there are bars and music and people. No sooner had I left the house than it started raining again so I snuck undercover just off the curb into a dark alcove where 4 men and a woman already stood. Behind them on the ground lay a drunk hobo, tall, black and broken by life, who muttered and blurted obscenities and incriminations at us and the world, which we tried our best to ignore.
One of the men, an older man of about 75 was playing guitar and singing a beautiful old bolero for the others who were listening intently and also singing along with him. When he finished his song we all clapped in appreciation engrossed by his weathered, beautiful voice and gentle playing. He sang another sweet, melancholy song and when he finished we all applauded again. I asked if I could play one too. His name I now forget, but he handed me his guitar and said "OK...you play one and then we'll take turns..me one, you one, OK?"
So I played a beautiful old Cuban bolero that my father, himself a pianist, taught me long ago, a song called " TU ME ACCOSTUMBRASTES " composed by a friend of my father's, a famous Cuban pianist, FRANK DOMINGUEZ.
They all joined me with harmonies at different sections of the song.
What happened next was a miracle of sorts. It turns out that these 5 people were all musicians, amazing musicians and singers and percussionists. They couldn't believe that I was actually playing this song and when I finished I was overwhelmed by their appreciation and surprise. One of these men in particular, looked up to the sky and said
" Gracias a dios, Tu es un regalo de dios. Eso es el trabajo de dios. " Which means " Thanks to god, you are a present from god. This is the work of god." When I went to hand the guitar back they told me to keep playing.
It turns out that this man, who's name is COTO is one of Cuba's national treasures. He is a Tresero, ( Cuban 3 string Guitarist ) who has toured the world playing everywhere, including Australia. And, to cut a long story short, for the last 3 days, he and I have been working on my own compositions with the intent of recording a CD. Yesterday he told me,
( and this I can't fathom ), that I've taught him stuff, chord structures and harmonies that he's never heard before and that I'm really helping him reach a completely new level of musical understanding. The only thing I can say is " WELL FUCK ME " because this guy is a pure and utter magician. He's a Musical animal. Talk about an honour. I feel blessed to have met him. What we've arranged so far sounds gorgeous. To watch him play my melodies is........total WOW.! I can't believe my luck.
This is the miracle I'm talking about. Had I been able to sleep, and had it not rained that fortuitous night I would not have been walking and I would not have snuck into that dark little alcove and I wouldn't have met him.
Yesterday afternoon a good friend of his, Gregory, a wonderful bass player, form Brooklyn, New York arrived at Coto's house while we were practising. Gregory is here a week to perform at the Cuban Jazz festival. Gregory invited us to play at a Jam session later that night ( last night ) with some of Cuba's and New York's finest Jazz players including pianist extraordinaire Arturo O' Farrill and Hayden Soul, angel Flautist and singer. Later that night while Coto and I waited to be picked up Coto asked me to tell him more about my brother Alexander and how he's doing. I told him, and so Coto, being an evangelist grabbed my hands and as he held them he prayed and beseeched god with such conviction, passion, zeal and faith for my brother's full return to perfect health, that I feel all will be well for my Alexander, with god's help of course.
At about 8.30 Gregory, accompanied by Pedro, another formidable Cuban bass player and lovely guy arrived to collect us. First we went out for dinner at a great place just around the corner in Caille Galeano where we ate like little kings. I even had a vanilla thick shake ( my private celebration ). Then we took a car to Hotel Habana Libre in Verdado where we met up with another band who was playing there and we sat in ( actually, we stood in ) for a few songs. After that we took another car to Mirimar, to a place right on the beach where the big jam session was happening. The drinks and food were on the house and we drank and ate more and played our balls off. What a night. Very hospitable and gracious patrons.
These musicians were all hot, hot, hot...super caliente!
And I was there!!!! Thank god.
When it rains, it pours.
I am a very lucky man !
Coto and I had arranged to go to a recording studio today where Coto was scheduled to record with an orchestra of some of Cuba's finest. We'd intended to spend the rest of the afternoon doing some more rehearsals but when I arrived at Coto's house he was asked by a neighbour to fix ( actually, to build a door ). He had to, because he'd already promised to do so. So.....we postponed our session till midday Friday.
I'm looking forward to it and other miracles.