Sunday afternoon, I’m sitting in a Starbucks. I have never sat in a Starbucks with a laptop, and I don’t much care for their coffee but this Starbucks is different you see. This particular installation is built into the walls of a once special place; HUN Sound. HUN Sound was a rehearsal studio where I spent much of the 90s, learning, teaching, and rehearsing with the lads. With a key to the front door, it became the first place work began, and the last key turned at the end of many of those days. I return to its now polished bellows for inspiration.
Last week I had a chance to see The Ninety Miles Project at Yoshi’s, Oakland. A group led by three players who feeling the need to immerse themselves fully into the culture of the music they were planning to record, traveled to Cuba and did it. Stefon Harris, David Sanchez, and Christian Scott put together a set of music honoring Cuba, New Orleans, and their collective soul; The Ninety Miles Project. For the project’s album they surrounded themselves with killer players from the island. For the tour, they managed to find amazing talent as well, many of them from Puerto Rico and clearly in touch with their instruments.
The place was packed for a Tuesday and hunting down a lone seat can sometimes end with 90 mins next to folks over compensating for something with excessive cologne. Not this time; front row far stage left, one seat available. I’m just left of percussionists Maurico Herrera’s set up and 20 feet from drummer Henry Cole with a clear view of both his feet.
Their set began, and well, quite frankly, I forgot that the waitress had not yet been around. Tune after tune, they communicated with slight gestures and smiles, developing solos and soloing as an ensemble all over these amazing claves that I had to ‘count’ to understand. Finally the Guinness came and I put the pencil down, sat back and got schooled in Afro Cuban heart and soul.
A moment that will stick with me took place during the ballad. While watching the percussionists wait and listen, the time came for a slight shaker part. The care he took to not make a sound while picking up the instrument off the stage floor, his respect for what was happening on stage was a clear demonstration of an absolute professional knowing their role in the moment. Truly inspiring to watch.
Since the show I’ve downloaded the album (cool videos come with it) and pulled out my afro Cuban books. Time for me to do the “before the Guinness” work again.
In closing, I must say this particular Starbucks experience has been very nice; great sounds (listening to Monk now!), coffee was bitter but got the fingers moving for sure, and the company has been civil. Thank you HUN Sound. Nice hang.