2/26/09: Spanish Harlem Orchestra @ The Blue Note (35/100)

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I was chatting with my friend Al earlier in day, and he told me I should be on the list to see the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at The Blue Note. Sweet. I was looking forward to this one. I mean, how often do I get to see music like this played live? Exactly: never. 

He said if I had any problem getting in to call a guy named Oscar and gave me his cell. When I got to the Blue Note, I talked to the guy at he door, told him I should be on the list, but somehow I wasn’t.

So I call up Oscar, he answers, says I’m on the list, I say the clipboard guy says I’m not, he says he’ll be right down, comes down, points at the list inside the club, not the one on the clipboard, gets me in and I’m good to go. I check my coat, then my phone, see my friend Jeremy is going to come meet me, I tell him to hurry and settle into a seat next to an interesting couple, Rick and Gloria.

Rick’s a drummer who’s been to the Blue Note a bunch of times to see jazz. Tomorrow’s his birthday, so he wants to treat himself, and brought Gloria along. She loves latin jazz/dance/salsa, so she’s not complaining. Rick and I talk music, he gives me some jazz artists to look into, and the bands walks toward the stage. 

Jeremy shows up right as theThe Spanish Harlem Orchestra – a 13-piece, Grammy award winning latin jazz/salsa band – settle in on stage. They grab their instruments, introduce themselves, and then launch into a song.

It’s not until I scan the band and land on the Pianist/Music Director that I realize…oh shit….that’s Oscar. The same guy who came down and sorted out my name on the guest list. I instantly feel bad that I had to call him, and understand why the guys at the door were so apologetic for getting it wrong. And why my VIP card says I’m a guest of the band:

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And, as it turns out, Oscar is the man. He conducts this group like a master. A lot of the songs are his original compositions, and he is able to play his parts, while standing up, pointing at, and barking out orders to the other members when it’s their turn to play. He’s backbone, but the singers – those guys are the charm. They’re dancing, and spinning in choreographed moves – never without a smile. The brass section is incredibly skilled, the percussionists and playing complex, syncopated beats – it’s all so complicated, yet looks so easy. 

What wasn’t easy was this week. I’m feeling better, through most of the show. Only reminded a few times that I’m still trying to kick this stupid cold. Which brings up a whole other issue: being sick while doing something incredibly public that your employer knows about. 

If I wasn’t going out and seeing a band every night, I probably could’ve called in sick one day this week. I really did need it. But when your personal life is as public as mine, that’s sort of tough to do. I can’t call in sick, miss a day of work, and then head out to see a band, and write about it that same day. Not if I value my job. And I really do. So I toughed it out and went to work all week. That’s the sacrifice that comes with such a public endurance test like this, I guess.

Back to the Blue Note…

The band announces they’re gonna play a new song, and it’s in the style of a classic cha-cha song. That’s when the crowd erupts. People jumped out of their chairs, and danced (some, very over the top) through the entire song. Which makes sense. I mean, I did think it was sort of weird to watch this kind of music sitting down anyhow. I’m a shitty dancer.

The band finishes, thanks us, and then exits the stage – shaking hands and talking to the crowd on their way out. As Oscar walks by my  table, I make sure to reach out, shake his hand, and thank him, once again – for a great night.

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