Just Back from Cuba...

Between Nov 11th and 18th I spent a fantastic week in a country who's music has inspired many generations of musicians including myself. It's no secret in that Cuba produced some of the finest musicians in the world including the late great Tito Puente and local talents like Hilario Duran, Luis Mario Ochoa and David Virelles who I've had the opportunity to learn from over the years through the "Humber connection". I was told by many musical friends before me to arrive in Cuba equipped with drum supplies because apparently the gear was in bad shape due to the trade embargo with the U.S. So... I went and gathered up 5 years worth of used sticks and heads and presented them to any drummers in need I happened to find - and they were everywhere!

Ernesto, the drummer at the Varedaro resort I stayed at was considerably thankful and happily gave me a drum lesson and a CD of Cuban music in exchange. Furthermore I had the opportunity to sit in with his "show band," trading off on drums and congas. I will be posting some audio from the rehearsal soon! Ernesto was a fantastic teacher and a consummate pro drummer who very clearly explained (in good English) several Cuban musical styles. He also demystified for me the role of the timbales when combined with the kit and slowed some complex timba rhythms WAY down so I could grasp them. Thank you Ernesto- my brother!!!

The night I spent in Havana was magical at "La Zorro Y El Cuevo" one of Cuba's top latin/jazz clubs. Here the musicians played original jazz compositions at the very highest level. Most of the music was based on clave but featured many progressive harmonic and rhythmic elements that took it far outside of traditional Cuban styles and mainstream jazz. Breakneck tempos, crazy shots, extreme dynamics and odd meters were the norm for this band and they played everything with a sense of fun and adventure while interacting. I was in awe for most of the night- especially when they asked me to sit in for the jazz standard, "Autumn Leaves"!

Once again the used heads I brought were much appreciated as the drummer was playing on a very beat up Stage Custom kit in rock sizes!

For any musician lucky enough to take a vacation, I would say Cuba is a must after this amazing experience! Check out the updated "pics" page for more photos...