Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wynton Marsalis in Havana

only in Havana

So, I'm sitting outside on the porch chatting with Alejandro. Anna and Jane come back to the house and mention that they just got back from this concert down the street. Was it good? Yeah, they said. We thought of you.

"And Wynton Marsalis is just like chilling there. He received some award or something. You should go."

So I went and put some pants on, because that's what you do when you go out in Havana.

I rounded up Allison, the other musician here, and Alejandro, and started walking to this house that is literally three blocks away. Outside there was a stage set up, and the music was still going strong when we got there. It supposedly invitation only. But since it's Havana, we just walked right in. Lucky for us, we got there in time to hear the last long vamp.

There was Wynton, smiling and grooving on the side of the small outdoor stage. All the musicians were taking turns. One young kid after another had a solo. This went on for a little over half an hour. I was so happy I brought my iPod and microphone. The music was hot. I've honestly never been so into jazz as I was tonight, hearing it live. Only in Havana.

But it doesn't end there.

During the performance I had been paying attention to the sound/video crew who were recording the entire time. They looked like they could be American, and then I heard them speaking English as they were packing up. So I went and said hi to the cameraman. He told me they were from Sixty Minutes. I asked if they were here for the jazz festival this week. No, they were just here following Winton.

"But you're not supposed to be here," the cameraman said when I told him I was studying in Havana for the semester.

Then out of nowhere this tall, elegant-looking old man who was standing next to me stuck his hand out and said, "Hi, I'm David Browning."

I shook his hand and introduced myself, telling him I go to Sarah Lawrence and how we have a program here in Havana. We chatted for another minute. As he started to leave he said it was nice to meet me. I wished him a good stay in Havana. That's when I started connecting the dots. David Browning. Sixty Minutes.

While I was piecing together what just happened I went and met Alejandro's friend's mom, who I found out is on the welcome committee of some artistic organization and gets to meet VIPs when they arrive at the airport. We talked about how I just met this guy named Dan Browning and she mentioned that there were some journalists from this show called Sixty Minutes. Just then I heard Dan Browning walking by saying, "Yeah, we're still looking for Diane." Diane...Diane Sawyer??

We finally saw Diane Sawyer coming outside and meeting up with Dan and leaving. Meanwhile Winton Marsallis was taking pictures with everyone. My camera was out of battery, so I didn't bring it along. Bummer.

What a night. Of course I could just walk in on a free jazz concert honoring Winton Marsallis. Of course I could bump into one of the most important faces of American television.

Only in Havana. At this point nothing should surprise me.

We watched as Wynton Marsalis walked right by us, Alejandro nudging me to say something as he was all by himself. But I realized he had just managed to escape the crowd and was about to make an exit. I didn't want to bother him.

He got into a fancy black car that was waiting nearby. I'm pretty sure it was the Chinese knock-off of the Mercedes S-class. Alejandro and I started to leave. As we were walking along I saw the car pull away. I noticed Winton and his entourage looking towards us from inside, and I instinctively waved.

He gave us his closed-lip smile and waved back. Only in Havana.

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