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!
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.