August 25.

Woke at 4.15am in order to catch the New York subway trains to Newark airport.

Train system is great, you can catch a few trains all the way to the airport.
Thought i was going to miss my 8am flight, when I had a 50 minute wait for the New Jersey connecting train. Aaaaaargh!

But alas things worked out well at the airport, plane was also delayed because the brakes needed changing.

Next stop CanCun, Mexico.

Beautiful resort hotels litter the beach strip in Cancun. Lots of water sports for those game.

I only had 24 hours here……most of which was spent buying a new isuitcase to replace the broken one that USA authorities had completely broken. (Taped shut for the journey to canCun though).

Opportunity perhaps…..


Quartet at Central Park

August 24.

Today marked 2 special occasions….my last lesson with the great flute teacher Keith Underwood, and, my last day jamming in Central Park.

Was particularly inspiring studying with Keith again, I had almost forgotteni how open he was to ALL things music, he constantly referring to classical players, jazz players, Cuban players, brass players etc.

Anyways lots learned, lots to practice.

Pic of Keith and I attached.

Headed straight to “the mall” in Central Park to play in the Seth Myers trio led by…….Seth Myers, also included myself and Mark Lockett. We had a good thing going, our trio was highly interactive and tight.

Today was an auspicious day as it was the first day that we had a demo CD available. People often asked if we had a cd….. So we made one.

Recorded in Seth’s apartment, came out very well. A great representation of our trio.

Much credit to Seth, his recording skills, mixing and editing skills, and design skills.

Was a great opportunity to play so often in the park over the summer, helped hone my jazz chops. Many memorable moments…..like today when Mark sat a 3/4 year old girl on the drum stool and helped her play a swing beat with the whole band. Ha. True.


Paul Van Ross meets Marvin Bugalu Smith

August 19.

Took the Hudson River Line train to Cold Spring today.

Was invited by Rob Scheps to come meet and play with the great drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith.u

What a day it was.

I mean I didn’t really know much about Marvin, but it turns out he played with Archie Shepp, Sun Ra and countless other famous people. Also studied with Max Roach, Elvin Jones and?

Marvin, let’s say is a senior citizen with more energy than two teenagers hitting the drums.

His lounge room is converted into a studio with drum set and microphones for visitors….. He records his jam sessions. What a great hobby.

We jammed for about 3-4hours. 2 saxophones and drums. Had a great hang.

Today Cedar Walton passed over to the other side….. We played a tribute “Bolivia”.( well Rob and Marvin did…. I thought I’d let the masters have the stage for a tribute to Cedar).

Thanks Marvin and Rob.

Rob Scheps played soprano today. I think he has the fattest soprano sound and groove. Check it out on the



Paul Van Ross meets the Cuban musicians for his album

August 29.

At noon today I got to meet most of the band that I will be recording with and discussed a little about each tune. I managed to have recordings of most of the tracks for the musicians to listen to. Thank god for my iphone and ipad which I had previously uploaded music / video on.

Was a good start. These musicians were at the top of their field, and they liked my music. After a few listens The Cubans were gathering ideas for each piece. I would throw them some ideas and tell them what I wanted (not jazz sounding). Lets just say they didn’t need much encouragement for ideas. I was getting vibes that this was going to be a great recording session. Each time a Cuban would listen to a track on my phone they would start listening with a dead pan face and end up smiling as it finished. 🙂 🙂

I had charts for everyone, and by end of day had cd’s burnt with sample tracks for the Cubans to listen to. (This was quite an effort to do in Cuba…..should have done this beforehand!!)

Musicians so far:
Changuito – timbales, of Los Van Van fame in 70’s & 80’s
Yoraldy – congas, of Chucho Valdes’ current band
Gaston – double bass, of Chucho Valdes’ current band
And me – flute / saxophone

Musicians met (except pianist – well, actually met an awesome pianist, however he wasn’t available Monday for rehearsal)
Music heard, ideas initiated
Studio seen / booked
Still trying to meet Jose Luis Cortes

Pay deposit for studio
Book taxi for the rehearsal day to pick up musicians and gear on time -Monday
Work out catering for musicians/taxi driver/Jacinto for rehearsal day
Find pianists(s) for rehearsal / recording
Work out money withdrawals as the ATM’s don’t like my visa travel card.

The two Australian percussionists (Steve & Nui) studying here also have offered to used their HD video equipment and cameras to document the rehearsal and recording of my album.


Havana update

August 28.

Today, we had plans to meet to great Cuban Flutist, Jose Luis Cortes. Due to his busy recording schedule this week it was postponed.

After having a well earned sleep in, I spent a few hours over brunch practising my Spanish with Jacinto’s wife and the maid. We had many laughs And thanks to my handy phrase book I even managed to tell a few stories in broken Spanish 🙂

Afterwards I went in search of an ATM and spent the next 3 hours walking around Havana. I’m sure I lost a few kgs. ATM’s didn’t like my Visa card (Aus post travel card), and reject every amount of $ I tried to withdraw. It seems that the banks have monopolised a 3% commission on all ATM withdrawals. So withdrawing $800 CUC will incur a USD$24 fee.

Plan B is to try at the counter in Hotel Nacional. Tomorrow.

Bought a map of Havana.

Tomorrow I meet at noon with the band for my recording to discuss arrangements and plans.

The man that runs my casa particular (B&B) spends a LOT of time watching TV.
Cuban woman have attitude a la
Today I was asked in sequence….
“Hello my friend…..
Where are you from…..
You want two Cuban woman….?”


Paul Van Ross visits EGREM studio in Cuba

August 27.

Today I went to visit the EGREM recording studio of Buena Vista Social Club fame. Accompanied by percussionist Jacinto i was able to discuss recording & rehearsal rates and was able to view the main studio and console as well as a rehearsal room.

It’s hard to describe how majestic this studio is, the main recording room has a real feeling of stepping back 60years in time. It’s easy to imagine the likes of Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald having recorded here.

I had hoped to record some of my original compositions with some Cuban musicians aiming for a more traditional Cuban flavour rather than a jazz flavour.

In the evening myself and Aussie Steve accompanied Jacinto to a religious event where Jacinto had to perform some of his duties as a babalow (priest) in the Santeria religion.

Basically we visited young boys age 6 & 12 who were “initiated”. The were both dressed immaculately in associated clothes for their saint, one in pure white, the other in red & white. We followed the etiquette and also played lots of drums and shared a meal. The two boys were being visited all week by family and friends.
No photos were allowed.

After much discussions with Jacinto about musicians to use we decided to check out a local Latin Jazz gig at Cafe Miremar featuring the rhythm section from Chucho Valdes’ band.