The KPLU Travel Club trip to Cuba January 26-February 2 was a great success, and the days and nights were filled with music!
Discovery: I had hoped to hear Cuban jazz musicians that I’d never heard before, and sure enough, at the underground jazz club called La Zorra y El Cuervo (the fox and the crow), pianist Jorge Luis Pacheco astounded us with his virtuosity. Look out for this young man to become an internationally known jazz star in the near future.
Introduction: One of the first things we saw and heard in Havana was a small street parade; dancers on stilts, drums and trumpet. A fine introduction to the city.
Musical meals: Our first meal, lunch at Santo Angel in Old Havana, included traditional Cuban melodies and more from a wind quartet. Music accompanied most of our meals on the trip.
La Taberna in the afternoon: Still in our first hours in Havana, we ventured to La Taberna, home of the Buena Vista Social Club and a shrine to Cuba’s most popular singer, Benny Moré.
Dance, dance, dance: We all now know the difference between Cuban salsa dancing and American salsa dancing, after a morning of truly delightful lessons.
Street music: Tourists, beware—the street musicians think they are catering to American tastes by playing four songs over and over: Besame Mucho, The Peanut Vendor, The Girl from Ipanema (?!) and the insidious Guantanamera. Please ask them to play something else…anything else…but be prepared to pay them for it.
Hemingway Hangout: This vintage jukebox graces the bar at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana, a grand old building. Hemingway and many stars spent time here.
Piña Colada Pit Stop: On our way to Matanzas, a roadside stand offers delicious piña coladas, and a band, of course. KPLU travelers practice their fancy steps.
Traditions: African drums and dances enthralled us at the old fort and prison in Matanzas.
Club life: A veteran of the famous Cuban band Irakere, percussionist/vocalist Oscar Valdez performs with his group of young players at the Jazz Cafe in Havana.
Music in the Mountains: This fresh-faced young band entertained us at the welcome center for the Las Terrazas Nature Park and village. Their energy chased the rain away.
Buena Vista Big Show: Back to Havana and La Taberna for the night show of the Buena Vista Social Club.
The High Life: Dinner in the gorgeous upstairs room of the Cafe del Oriente included a jazz trio. Here the bass player takes a break to dance with Nancy.