"Tropic Magic--the Rhythm of the Tradewinds" is how our agent books us for convention gigs here in Puerto Rico.
This CD was inspired by Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzales of the Buena Vista Social Club. Not that I sound much like Ruben but let's say we went to different schools together playing night after night in smoky bars and lounges, he in Havana and me in San Juan. At the time of release of this CD I am approaching my 83rd birthday. For over 50 of those years I have lived in the Caribbean. My first love is jazz, but I discovered early on that most musicians who play only jazz either get day jobs or are undernourished.
I like good food and wine and a comfortable pad on the beach and so far have successfully avoided a day job for which I am grateful. But much of my income has come from playing and recording Latin music.
When I first arrived in Puerto Rico in 1953 I had the good fortune of playing with some very fine local musicians. These guys were born with a clave sticking out of each ear and I learned Latin music by osmosis. Hotel jobs in that era were 6 hours a night, 6 nights a week and we played show tunes for the tourists and cha chas and merengues and mambos for the locals. Nobody called it salsa yet and those British kids with the twangy guitars had not arrived to dominate American pop music. We kinda ignored them at the time hoping they would go away.
Well they didn't but looking back through the rearview mirror some of those songs were neat. "Satisfaction" was probably the most popular rock song ever and as far as I know no one has ever covered it instrumentally. It works as a merengue. "Day Tripper" goes well as a son cha, "Dock of the Bay" is a fine reggae. Jazz stanards like Coltrane's "Naima" and Dizzy's "Con Alma" have haunted me for years and I finally recorded them with an Afro-Cuban beat. Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes" swings with a beat I borrowed from Cortijo's claasic "Calypso Bomba y Plena". "Bluesette" and Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream" are cool as salsas. The old standard "Out of this World" starts out as a baion and goes into samba. "Norwegian Wood", my favorite Beatles song, is played as a jazz waltz. "Round Midnight" doesn't really fit that well with the rest of the songs but I had this track around for a while and it makes for a nice change of pace. The final track "Tradewind" is my original featuring some tasty percucsion by Carmelo Munet.