Paul Van Ross mixes album in Cuba

September 7.

Spent 8 hours mixing and editing the recording session at Egrem studio with Alejandro the sound engineer.

I think it was a good idea to mix here at EGREM in Cuba. Apart from the fact that Alejandro was very quick at the computer, there were also many preset EQ’s for all the Latin percussion already in the system. These were also used by other notable artists who have recorded and mixed here at EGREM like Manilito Simonet, Pedrito Martinez etc. I’m happy to go with their expertise.

Also amazed at how much communication you can get by pointing to a computer screen and making a few hand gestures.

Much of the work done. Yeeeay. A busy week.

Now to get some flute lessons off the Cubans. The other reason came here!




Paul Van Ross records day 2 in Cuba

September 6.

Recording Day 2.

So basically today we needed to do an extra take of one track and try the allocated Cuban Song. Some extra percussion was also added by Yaroldy to one track with an Afro Cuban 6/8 section (sounds awesome).

I discussed with Alejandro (piano) and Gaston (bass) that if we did a Cuban track, I would want it to be ‘different’. “La Negra Tomasa” was suggested and Alejandro wrote out some alternate changes for the melody section and woohoo!

Trying to get the Cubans together in order to take a group photo was next to impossible, but got it eventually.

Offered a haircut by the assistant sound engineer Roberto.

Was a bit of a manic day today. Trying to organise finances, book the studio for mixing, getting a band photo, going to the bank, the recording, etc, I’m glad I didn’t organise any mixing to start today!

After waiting to back up files, I eventually Got home about 4:30pm after what was supposed to be a 2 hour work day.

Managed to borrow friends laptop to listen to the recordings made over last 2 days….Very happy. This band is happening. Apparently Changuito was very particular (behind the scenes) in sorting out which musicians would be working on my project.

Went to jam with some of the band again at cafe Miramar. The musicians very quickly treated me like one of their own. Quite often during the recording session they would often be impressed with some of the Latin rhythms that I would play on my horns. They would remark that I’m a little Cubano.
Met and played with Cuban saxophonist Carlos Miyares.









Paul Van Ross Records day 1 in Cuba

September 5.

Recording Day 1.

I had a total of eight hours booked for recording, spread over 2 days.

My goal was to record as much as possible in the first day, with touch ups on the 2nd day……luckily things worked out in my favour.

Today went really well, managed to record all 7 tracks that I wanted, with a few versions of each. The musicians are always very professional when playing, although sometimes hard to get to shut up (they love to talk, joke, and play).

They’re we’re many wonderful musical moments, the musicians giving the music the utmost importance, especially when it came down to finer details. Often drop ins were performed to fix the tiniest mistake.

Often I would find myself listening and waiting as the Cubans sorted out any changes they wanted, then I would get the translation last.

Often the percussionists would be very particular about certain rhythmic hits. Perfectionists.

At the end of the day Gaston (bass) asked whether I was going to recorded a Cuban song. It’s something that I had thought about the day before. He mentioned a couple that would be easy. We decided to try one tomorrow and see how we go.

I made sure I got a copy of all the audio and session files on my hard drive before I left the studio at end of day. Always good to be careful. As Mike, the engineer in New York said “you never know if a disaster may hit the studio overnight, grab a backup”.

The audio Cd the studio gave me in order to listen to the tracks had only percussion parts on it…..aaaargh! This would have been handybif were to start mixing tomorrow, especially considering we are to record for only 2 hours in the morning. Should have checked before I left studio. Can grab a copy tomorrow of everything recorded.

In the evening I joined the drummer, Oliver Valdes, at Cafe Miramar to jam with the band tonight. A few jazz standards, some Stevie Wonder. Had a fun time. Great guitarist and trumpet player.









3rd rehearsal in Cuba

September 4.

3rd rehearsal day with my Cuban Band.

Day went very well. The addition of drum kit and some decent sounding cymbals is wonderful.

The Cuban musicians are sounding awesome together. They are quite complimentary of my tunes, memorise them in a second and all have chops to burn. They’re a fun bunch of guys, always joking and laughing, but getting down to business when needed. The band keep find hip Cuban rhythms to add to my music.

Changuito & Gaston had a brief play on drum set, damn, they can both play kit too.

Found out pianist Alejandro Falcon played with the one of my favourite Latin bands, “Maraca” for 5 years.

The Cubans are enjoying the fact that I also love to joke with Changuito, as he often makes a laugh of others. I have no qualms about giving it back. He always gets a laugh.

At end of the day all the instruments were moved into allocated booths in preparation for recording. I didn’t want to waste any valuable recording time moving instruments. There was objection from Changuito about be separated, he preferred to record all in the main space. Anyway, the other musicians and recording engineer convinced him this was the best way.

Can’t wait till we start recording tomorrow.

10am Record time!

– Today I corrected English homework for a Young teenage Cuban Girl.
– You can buy a delicious hot chocolate for 55c, a can of soda for 50c, and a cheese pizza for 10c.





2nd rehearsal in CUBA

September 3.

After listening to the recording I made of yesterday’s rehearsal I have decided to add a cuban drum set player to the band. The rehearsal was missing good cymbals and a few other bits and pieces.

Have also decided to drop one chart “Slow Moving Octopus” as it was consuming too much rehearsal time. I’ve replaced it with another ballad of mine which will done in a ‘danson’ style.

We were hoping that Rodney Barretto (from Chucho Valdes’s band) would be available. He would make a perfect addition as he plays with the current musicians already. Unfortunately he is unavailable. Oliver Valdes Will be joining us. Another powerhouse.

2nd rehearsal went well. There are going to be some amazing musical moments on the recording.

Everyone is still enjoying my compositions, the ones I’ve chosen to record with the Cubans lend themselves well to the Cuban flavour.

I’m especially glad that i had planned much of the arrangments prior to rehearsal. Its amazing how many musical decisions have to be made on the fly but so good to have some foundation ideas planned already. It’s a great thing to have much experience, persistence, and be willing to adapt what you have written.

The musicians are tiring of the rehearsing, and we will need another rehearsal tomorrow with the drum set player, however, I’m convinced it will be short in duration. I hope that none of their enthusiasm wanes.

The Cuban musicians never cease to amaze me. The bass player, Gaston, sat at the piano in a quiet moment of rehearsal and started playing. He plays better piano than most pianists I know! Apparently he’s also great on conga. He also knows most jazz standards and is good friends with Mark Levine.

Today I paid for the recording time I had booked at Egrem. Always a little slow in the office. I was asked about whether I wanted to mix and edit at the studio also. I was a little reserved not knowing how good the sound engineer was (a few of the musicians had spoke very highly of him). I was offered a 40% discount as an incentive.

– never leave home without toilet paper in CUBA. Let’s just say that today I discovered another use for sheet music 😉




1st rehearsal in Cuba

September 2.

1st rehearsal today with my Cuban band. Very excited!!!!

Taxi picked up all musicians and instruments and delivered to studio.
It turns out the woman in charge of EGREM studio had made sure the main studio was available for our
rehearsal instead of the smaller room with the honky tonk piano. I think it was suggested that I tip her for this, as with all things Cuban the goal posts move occasionally.

So the main recording room was available for us all week.

Rehearsal went from 11-3.30pmish. All things considered it went very well. I’m especially glad that I booked a 2nd day of rehearsal as we covered 5 1/2 of the 8 tunes I want to record. Some tunes took a little extra time due to language barriers.

All the cuban musicians can read sheet music except The great Changuito, who plays entirely by ear (good reason to have a demo CD for listening).

There was a lot of joking around between the Cubans (not so much wasting time, but more connecting). It created a good vibe. Changuito seems to be quite the comedian.

The 2 pianists are great. Alejandro Falcon has amazing technical facility and is definitely a Thelonious Monk fan. Younger Jorge Aragon Brito is also a force to be reckoned with, and played great considering he was sight reading his 3 allocated charts.

I had catered for 8 people for lunch after this.

Jacinto is forever keeping tabs on things, making sure I’m happy and the Cubans are not wasting time.

I need a nap.

Shall do it all again tomorrow at 10am.