Hi everyone! First of all, I hope you all are fine. Second, sorry for not posting anything for a long time! I decided this time to write a bit about my travels in Cuba and Italy. Next time (hopefully very soon!) I'll write more about my plans for the rest of the spring and the summer 2017. But at the moment I'm still waiting to have the dates and confirmations, so perhaps better next time!
DECEMBER, HAVANA, CUBA!
I have to confess... I had been planning to travel to Cuba since my high school years (yes!) and therefore, hmm .. some years had passed by without me entering this beautiful island in the Caribbean.. having played and studied, listened to a lot - and later on also taught Cuban music a lot, it was surely a surreal feeling to finally see and feel Havana.. But how cool is was! I ha d the chance to meet and play with a lot of great musicians, and to hear lots of wonderful music. Also the hangs were really cool, and I even had time to briefly visit a near-by beach one day! Generally speaking, I was quite busy anyhow.. I think I played 5 concerts, 2 rehearsals, several sound checks, and 2 lengthy jam sessions in 6 days! But most of it was just fun.
LA PLAZA FESTIVAL DE JAZZ was the festival where I was invited to play, and it turned to be a really cool festival with lots of great musicians, including some top US artists, like Christian McBride, Terence Blanchard, Snarky Puppy, etc. But for me it was just enough to see Omara Portuondo sing with the legendary Chucho Valdes at the Teatro Melia on the opening night! I also enjoyed a lot listening to many great musicians from Cuba (also from outside Havana). So much music!
After traveling some 20+ hours to get to Havana, it took a while (2,5 hours) before I got out of the airport, and finally had to find a taxi. A local 'collectivo' didn't accept me, he obviously thought it'd be a better catch for a 'real' taxi.. Anyways, arrived to the house I was staying in, quite exhausted.. had been there maybe 10 minutes and Jorge Reyes comes rushing in 'Pekka, como va? Vamos para el jam!!' What a start! So we rushed to Corner Cafe, a great joint for jazz, where this famous grupo Interactivo (I didn't know them beforehand) was playing. They sounded great! So they invited me onstage and there we go.. no warm-ups or nothing, super-tired etc, but the music usually shows you the way after a while! Finally, it was great fun, and also met these great trumpet players, so cool to play with other horns!
The first real concert for me in Havana, was at the Fabrica del Arte Cubano, which is a big place with different stages and bars and restaurants, situated in an old factory. Like in Berlin! It was very cool, and even the sound was actually really professionally handled. Only that the audience tended to be a bit loud, lots of foreigners who were perhaps more into the hang-out and the bars, than the music. But by the end of our set we did gather a good, active and supportive audience for us, so the rest didn't matter anymore. We had rehearsed pretty long the same day, so we knew the music, and it was great to play! Abel Marcel played a beautiful intro to one of our tunes, and Jorge Reyes played great bass! And some Ron Cubano backstage! :):)
Then the next concert that was materialized, was at the Pabellon Cuba, on 23rd Street (Calle 23). A Beautiful and a big place with several stages, we played at the 'Garden' . It was totally packed, and despite some very last-minute schedule-changes, it was a great experience. The audience really dug our music, and I enjoyed a lot! Also met some very cool, new people afterwards.
On the same night, after the Pabellon Cuba concert, we played at the Habana Libre Hotel, which used to be a Hilton, before the name-change. It has a different kind of class than most other fine hotels I've seen, since there's original art in many places, plus the design is somewhat unique. We played a set of most standards, some 1hour 20 minutes straight, and it was great fun!
We played at the main - or final concert of the festival, at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza, which is not exactly a 'casa', since it is like a huge outdoor concert place, but nevertheless, a fantastic place to hang, and to play as well. Thsi concert had to be somewhat short, since the time was limited for all, except the last performer. I had a great time playing, and also hanging and listening to the great music afterwards!
For the last night there was a great jam session at the Jazz Club Corner Cafè with lots of both Cuban and international artists. It was great fun, and such a cool way to end the visit in La Habana!!