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Jazz jam in Havana

September 13. Cuba.

Flute lesson in more fundamentals. Am enjoying the lessons. Evelyn is pretty good at translating what she means.

Went to the jazz club on calle 23. Evelyn’s friends were playing. A very energetic band with sax, trombone and rhythm section. A couple of guest vocals by gorgeous Cuban singer “Yanet”?. The horn players have amazing technique but I find that the soloing is very busy, technical and lacking soul (funnily enough). Not enough contrast or beautiful melodies. The way they play reminds me of letting a bull out the gate.

Got up on stage to jam to “straight no chaser”.

Michel Herrera – saxes
Alejandro Merono – piano
David Faya – bass
Yoandy Algudin – trombone
Reiner Mendoza – drums
Yanet Valdez – vocals

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Havana Art museum

September 12. Cuba.

Flute lesson in the morning. More fundamentals in playing Charanga, and Danson. Tomorrow we are going to a jazz club to hear a good friend of the flute teacher.

The Cuban Art Museum is quite amazing. Apart from being a wonderfully quiet place to escape from being asked if I want a taxi, cigar, bike taxi, or woman, I found most of the artwork astonishing.

Have bought my bus ticket to travel from Havana to Veradero (about 2 hour trip) for next Tuesday. My flight leaves from Veradero, it’s a real tourist beach resort area, where Swiss airlines flies to and from.

Observations:
– the towels in the apartment I am staying are from a famous hotel a kilometre away.

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September 11

September 11. Cuba.

Banging on the door at 7am……
Housemate Nui misread his flight details and after a sleepless night in order to adjust his body clock, he missed his flight. He thought it left havana at 7am, but it actually arrived in mexico at 7am…whoops, another day in Havana for him. Not much sleep though, I have a flute lesson at 10am, and at 9am somebody in an adjoining apartment decided to do some repairs and maintainence with a hammer .

Great flute class today.

Learnt about the rhythms in Danson.
Showed Evelyn some basic in flute beat boxing (she was keen to learn). Her boyfriend is the drummer in the famous Cuban band “Havana D’Primera”.

Torrential downpour of rain at lunchtime. Had to grab shelter at a bus stop until it subsided.

Met a guy from Italy in the street yesterday. When he asked where I was from I said “Cuba”, then I asked him if he needed a taxi or a cigar? Best joke he’d heard all day.

My flute teacher Evelyn said she would join me to see a few local gigs. I find it hilarious that whilst her boyfriend is in Australia on tour she’s showing an Aussie the ropes here in Havana.

Helped our Cuban friend Juglio with his English at 1am by picking out words from the lonely Planet guide book that were relevant.

Ate the most amazing Guava tart at dinner. Apparently it most homemade by the neighbour. Delicious!

Observations:

– watched a guy push start a CubaTaxi 🙂
– 50c for a taxi for about 3-4km.
– just noticing there are lots of peanut vendors around….just like the song “El Manisero”.
– my Spanish, although reasonably poor, gets me through most days without a hitch. Even manage to get a laugh out of most people, and tell a few broken Spanish stories.
– I get a lot of mileage out of telling locals that my friend is “Changuito” the legend. I often show them a photo. Makes me a little less of a foreigner. After telling one local Cuban my story for being here and my past connections with Cuban dance and music I said “Soy medio Cubano”….”I’m half Cuban” 🙂

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Paul Van Ross has flute lessons in Cuba

September 10. Cuba.

Had a great flute class with Evelyn. She’s showing me the roots of Cuban flute music in Danson & Charanga. She’s quite a character and we often share ideas. Her English is very understandable and I think that studying with her will be great. She’s performed on TV a lot here. She is good friends with the pianist I recorded with last week Alejandro Falcon (amazing).

Spent the day practising. Then went to Changuitos house with friend Nui, to say good bye, have a drink of rum, meet the family and take a few photos.

In the evening we went out for dinner. Fellow Aussie ‘Nui’ is leaving tomorrow. Had a fun drink with local Bata player from Chucho Valdes’ band and his amigo…..they are so funny. Hard to pass up a Piña Colada for US$1.25 so I had two or three or was it four???

We joked about the cafe in which we were drinking as it had pink painted walls with decor from 1960’s. we dubbed it ‘the pink panther’.

I find it so ironic because most Cubans are famous for dressing so well, yet the decor and buildings here are exact up the opposite….no style (or completely retro).

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Cold chocolate in Havana

September 9. Cuba.

Good news. A flute teacher has been organised for tomorrow. I get to study the Charanga style of flute in my final week here 🙂

Free day today. Spent the morning being a tourist in Havana. Walked around the main sights and monuments. Had lunch catered for by a fellow Aussie, was great to have a change in cuisine. Evening was spent back at EGREM studios with fellow Aussie, Nui, recording some sax and flute on one of his tracks. he also made use of the recording tome to do some recording of a bata group and put down a Spanish rap over his track.

Not a day goes by without being ‘pssst’ at. It’s both a way of getting your attention and saying I’m interested in you……Its quick to figure out the which one.

So today One man offered me:

“A taxi,
The best Cuban cigar,
A woman……..
Coccaine??? ” now that’s a first!”

Also met a local Cuban taking photos of monuments. He was a restauranteur, very friendly and interested in what I was doing….no strings attached.

Cold glass of chocolate drink…..delightful on such a stinking day 🙂

Observations:

– Cubans don’t have individual rubbish bins for their house. They take the garbage down the street and put it in designated huge dumpster bins. I guess this is easier work for the garbage truck.
– anytime is a good time to play dominos or draughts in the middle of the street.

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Post recording relax

September 8. Cuba.

Slept 10 hours. Needed it.

Whilst plowing through an almond ice cream I Heard a bachata version of:
– Michael Jackson’s “I just can’t stop loving you,
– Lionel Ritchie’s “Say You, Say Me”,

The light is broken in the elevator in out apartment building. Today I opened the door to the elevator to find 6 enthusiastic young teenagers who were obviously getting a kick out of catching the lift in the dark.

Went to the outdoors venue 1830 for a dance. Bumped into good friends Taline & Jose from Sydney who had just arrived in Havana.

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