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Monday, December 29, 2003
Demasiado musica...

After the Rumba on Saturday, I headed to Casa de la Musica Galiano for Tirso's matinee. Tirso is the extremely talented ex-singer of Pupy and Charanga Habanera, and now has a brand new 16 piece group. Two trumpets, two trombones, two keyboards, three coristas, bass, and no less than FIVE percussionists: drumset, timbales, bongo, congas, and guiro. Maybe it was too much for the sound guy, because the mix was horrible, making it somewhat difficult to really assess the band. In a nut shell, Charanga Habanera fans will love the group, he does two of Pupy's tunes, but it felt as though the group is a work-in-progress that hasn't found it's own distinct style yet. I'll be investigating the progress of the studio album.

That night I was all set to hear Pupy at the Turquino, but when I got there, it turned out to be a mentira--no Pupy. Ay, Cuba! After a few phone calls, I determined that Issac Delgado was at the Habana Café, so off I went, and I'm glad I did. I've heard Issac's group probably a dozen times, and they just get better! I think the drummer is new, and he's a monster! And it was a big surprise to see German Valasco and Alexander Abreu in the horn section! I stood on the side of the stage close to the horns, and let me tell you, this is the new Metales de Terror! Alexander played lots of solos, and was completely amazing. I wish I could give more details, but I entered a state of complete bliss, nirvana, joy, the zen of timba. For over two hours, I was totally in the present moment, although with my jaw on the floor at times. For those of you in Europe, don't miss him when he comes next month. Increíble!

Yesterday, I visited mis amigos de Trabuco. I went over to David Bencomo's house, but ran into Ricardo Amaray on the way. This is what I love about Havana: it's a big city, two million people, but when I go walking around, I always run into friends. David and Evelio (conguero for Trabuco) and I got caught up over a bottle of Camaguey ron, and last night I went with them to Casa de la musica Miramar for their gig. They sounded monstruous as always, and played three new tunes from the upcoming CD. Manolito says it's his best yet, and he should know. Everybody was glad to see me, and quite a few of El Indio's and Amaray's guias contained references to Mamborama. Ja! A Japanese fan was going around after the show getting autographs, but she was having them sign (get this) a Mamborama CD, not Trabuco! Ja ja ja! que sorpresa! Gracias, Chato! This is her seventh trip to Cuba--she's a true Timba geek de Japon!

In the next few days, I'll be going over to Manolito's house to hear the new Trabuco CD. I know it's going to be good. It goes on sale here in Cuba next month.

More news as it happens... We report, you decide... or something like that...
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Saludos de La Habana!

For the next few weeks, I'll be posting from my favorite city in the world. I flew out yesterday on the CTS charter from LA, and just four and a half hours later, I once again invaded Havana. My friend Marcos Crego (formerly pianista of Klimax) and his wife Yindra, picked me up at the airport, along with his father El Greco, the famoso trompetista and one of the original Metales de Terror of NG La Banda.

We dropped off my bags and went to a Chinese restaurant and got caught up on things. Later, Marcos, Yindra and I went looking for musica. Casa de La Musica Miramar had NG La Makina, so we passed on that. I never caught the name of the group that was playing CDLM Galiano, but Marcos assured me that they were not worthy of our presence. We wound up at the Jazz Café, where Peréz Peréz y su grupo were playing. So, in the space of a few hours, I was hanging out with two of the Metales de Terror.

When I was getting another Ron from the bar, a chica told me that Los Van Van were playing across the street at the Habana Café. It was about one in the morning at this time, and Marcos and Yindra decided to head home, and I went to hear Van Van. Juan Formell was missing in action, and the usual sub was playing bass. They played all the new tunes, and Issac Delgado got up and sang some guias on Lele's new tune, Quiereme. They sounded great, although I prefer them with Formell, but I'm just being picky.

After the show, I went backstage to say hello. Boris shouted out, "Mamborama!" Ja Ja JA! I staggered on home and got to bed early around 3:30 in the morning, being a bit tired from the flight.

Not bad for the first night. After I get out of the internet cafe, I'm heading to the rumba at the Gran Palenque, then there's a matinee with Tirso Duatre's new group at Casa De La Musica. I haven't found out who's playing at Miramar tonight, but Los Van Van are at the Galiano CDLM.

Tomorrow I'll be at the rumba at Callejon De Hamel with my buddies Iroso Obba. Stay tuned, I'll try to update whenever I get the chance. Use the comments feature if you have questions.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Those of you that have the new Mamborama CD may have noticed that there is a hidden bonus track at the end. If you let Nos Vemos play after the tune is faded out, you'll hear a very cool Conga line march across your speakers from left to right.

I like doing this kind of thing, and I like CDs that have little hidden surprises, like Samuel Formell's drum solo at the very end of Van Van's Llego CD. The only problem with hidden tracks is there's no credits for them on the CD, or they wouldn't be surprises. But credit should be given, because that Conga was created by the one-man Caranaval Coky Garcia. Coky played every instrument, including spoons on a fry pan over about eleven tracks to make it happen. Gracias, Coky!
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
New Article: Evolution of a song: La Gata Loca. More than you ever needed to know about the conception and recording of this tune, along with sound clips from its first live performance in a small group Latin Jazz setting, to sequenced demo, to basic tracks and coros.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Calling all drummers! Mamborama's Jimmy Branly, the insanely great Cuban percussionist and drummer, has just written a book on Afro-Cuban music for drumset. It comes with a 65 minute CD that contains 97 examples of Jimmy demonstrating the techniques in the book. The examples were recorded digitally with ProTools, and if I know Jimmy, I'll bet the sound quality is outstanding. It's only $25 plus S&H. Here's a pic of the cover, and here's one of the back cover.

The cool part is that you can buy the book directly from Jimmy by email.

Jimmy's been busy lately. Besides playing for every group in the known world, including Mamborama, he's put together a new Latin Jazz group named Clave Report that will make its debut at The Baked Potato in LA on Dec. 21. Jimmy describes the music as "Latin Jazz, but with a new taste, more acoustic." He's also been working with Luis Eric's new group Bayaló; they're recording their first CD at Jimmy's studio.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

This is sad: Rubén González, one of the stars of the Buena Vista Social Club band, died Monday in Havana. He was 84. Gonzales was the pianist of the group that helped spark a renaissance of traditional Cuban music. Here's an NPR story, and another one from Yahoo News. And in Spanish here.

Maestro Gonzalez was a master of Son piano. When I was first studying Cuban music, one of my teachers, Marcos Crego, told me to listen to Rubén to get the feel of the music. Listen I did, and still do. He will be missed.
Friday, December 05, 2003
According to Canal Cubano, if you were in Havana tonight, you'd have to choose between hearing Los Van Van, Pupy, Manolito y su Trabuco, or Paulito FG. Meanwhile, tonight in my home town, I can choose between the couch or going to the grocery store. What the hell am I doing here? Why am I asking you? Time to look into flights to Havana...
Some site maintenance: since the demise of, I've replaced the short clips of the first Mamborama CD, Night Of The Living Mambo, with full-length mp3s, available for listening in either hifi or lofi flavors. Now you can listen to both Mamborama CDs all the way through, after which you will no doubt want to head straight to and order them, right? We can only hope...
Big congratulations to my friend Mark Levine, whose excellent Isla CD with his group The Latin Tinge has been nominated for a Grammy in the Latin Jazz category. Go, Mark! His CD is available at Amazon.
Monday, December 01, 2003
I finally got a hold of a copy of Los Van Van's Live At Miami Arena CD. This is a terrific document of their historic 1999 Miami concert. Every hard-liner anti-Castro Cuban-American in Miami tried to stop this concert, and when they couldn't, something like 5,000 protestors showed up and pelted concert-goers with rocks and bottles and verbal abuse. Some members of the Cuban-American community were forced to wear masks as they entered the concert so they wouldn't be recognized and harassed later. Jacira Castro of, was there that night, and wrote a review of the show here.

The group was fired up, not only by the controversy, but by playing Miami for the first time in their thirty year career. They played ferociously for over two hours, and the whole concert is captured in this two CD set which includes a bonus DVD of the concert! How cool is that? This package is essential for any Van Van fan--your collection is incomplete without it. It's available at

Mamborama news and the world of Cuban music, accompanied by occasional self-indulgence.

Extensive Cuba trip report now online.

Here's an online scrapbook of photos of La Habana and some of the recording sessions for the new album.

August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / February 2005 / April 2005 / June 2005 / December 2005 / March 2006 / April 2006 /

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