Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Jazz The Cuban Way

Saturday just gone, after an early start and a short late afternoon nap to try and ensure that I stayed awake and sufficently compos mentis, Shazzerooneypoos collected Mrs The Millbrooker and me in her rust-red Shazziwagon.

Already aboard were Dong and Liability (sans Comb-Over who's an old grouch and didn't fancy an evening's festivities, Cuban style).
Truth be told, I'd forgotten that Liability was coming out with us and nearly climbed onto her lap as I swung open the driver's side rear door and started to clamber inside. Luckily she emitted a small squeak to warn me of an alien presence that wasn't desirous of my derriere upon her knee; seating arrangements were duly sorted out and off we went to Plymouth Pavilions for an evening's entertainment supplied by the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.I'm not even going attempt a critical review; I can only say what a joyous, hip-swaying, dangerously-difficult-to-play jazz noise this bunch make.

The story of the original Buena Vista Social Club is pretty well known: the Club was a members only affair, holding dances and musical events in Havana during the 1940s. In the 1990s Ry Cooder was inspired to record with some of the original musicians from those days: the hugely influential, eponymously titled, "Buena Vista Social Club" was the resultant album.

Wim Wenders made an Oscar winning film, also eponymously titled, which brought these great musicians and outstanding form of jazz to another audience again.These days the surviving originals are getting thinner on the ground (it's only natural - they're not exactly spring chickens). There are three versions of the Buena Vistas still playing around the world. Eliades Ochoa and Omara Portuondo tour as solo acts with their own groups.

All of the remaining active Clubbers work as part of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. It's a pretty organic outfit in which outrageously talented younger musicians are brought into the frame and play full parts alongside the elder statesmen of Cuban jazz: Cachaito Lopez, Aguale Ramos, Manuel Galban and Barbarito Torres. And that's the outfit we saw.

I can't recommend a night out seeing this lot highly enough; it was Dong and Shazzerooneypoos' idea (they saw them last time they played the Pav) and what a fine idea it was.

It was impossible to sit still; everyone was doing the "I-have-to-sit-in-my-seat-but-I'm-dancing-on-my-bum-cheeks" shuffle. Don't be misled into thinking it's simple dance music - far from it; the improvisations and jazz licks come at you hard and fast. These guys can play seriously good jazz as well as keeping up an infectious rhythm and provoking broad grins all over the audience.

Do yourself a favour, if the Buena Vistas come calling in these parts again - buy a ticket (and some for your mates) you'll have a whale of a time.

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