Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Different Drummer

It's been a special week here in Havana.

We've spent hours and hours walking the streets, mostly in the Old City, admiring the buildings, catching the energy of the people, endlessly answering the question about where we're from, and then absorbing the knowing, sometimes admiring comments about Canada, the US or Poland. And I think what gets to me most - in terms of the absurdity of politics - it the realization that most of these people will never have the opportunity to visit these countries they express so much interest in.

A highlight has been the music. We hear the traditional Cuban "Son" style of music played everywhere in Old Havana, especially versions of the Buena Vista Social club classics. But for me, seeking out the jazz clubs was a priority, and we really struck gold.

On Sunday we visited the Jazz Cafe, and tonight we've just returned from La Zora y El Cuervo, and both nights we took in really good acts: Roberto Fonseca and Temperamento the first night, and Michel Herrera and Joven Jazz tonight. Both groups featured talented musicians, but the one who really blew me away was the drummer for Temperamento, one Ramses Rodriguez.

Rodriguez gave the best drumming performance I've seen in a long, long time, maybe ever. His fluidity, endless creativity and his rhythmic drive kept the entire act pulsing with energy. He reminded me of the best recordings I have by the likes of Tony Williams, Billy Cobham and Brian Blade. Simply INCREDIBLE! And thank goodness, he and other musicians are able to travel. I spoke with him briefly and was told that he frequently travels to the US, Canada and elsewhere. If you ever get a chance to see him, don't miss it. The man is a revelation.

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