Playing The Fania All-Stars At My Retail Job
Takes me back to my early days playing
latin jazz and salsa in Tucson bars.
When we were all the way on
whole rooms full of sweating dancers
would cheer, spinning, singing along. ¡Baila!
Me, a 20-year-old white kid with no business
among these grizzled Mexican and Puerto Rican
veterans of the local music scene. Playing the claves
like an elementary school kid with woodblocks.
“If you’re going to play them,” Ismael said, “PLAY THEM.”
Later he would tell me, during a flamenco tune:
“Clap like my mama’s making tortillas.”
(He offered me cocaine, drank Scotch during every set
till the tempos were elastic as putty.)
Later I would lay jazz melodies over the dance rhythms.
Will, the bongocero, said to a new trumpeter:
“Can you play them jazz songs like my man Jason?”
I floated off the floor in my cap-toed spectators.
MCA Records offered us a deal, so we got together
at Izzy’s house to lay down a bunch of music.
Izzy got coked up, missed the meeting with the execs,
the deal was off. But when we were on, man,
we were all the way on.
/ / /
27 December 2019
State College PA