[Dixielandjazz] Deja Vu - OKOM & Latin Jazz

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 12 17:22:25 PDT 2003

I just learned that Barbone Street will be sharing the stage with the
Tito Puente Latin Jazz Band (retro) at The Dover Downs Casino Hotel's
2nd Annual Wine & Jazz Festival in Dover DE. (Where they draw 150,000
good old boy fans per day to see the NASCAR races a couple of times a
year). It brought back a beautiful memory about Latin Jazz which is also
MKOM for some of us on the list.

I was an aspiring, young jazz musician in New York City, circa mid 1950s
when my Father announced that he had an important client coming from Rio
DeJaneiro to visit the big apple for a day or two. And he was bringing
his 20 year old daughter. I was to be pressed into service as her
escort. Great, I thought, probably some overweight, ugly child.

"Don't worry" said Dad, "she likes jazz".

We went to meet them at the Waldorf Astoria where they were staying
(separate rooms) and when the client walked into the bar to meet us, I
was stunned to see a hot young latin girl on his arm. I mean hot.
Beautifully dressed in a very sexy outfit, etc., a beautiful young lady.

We had dinner with our Fathers and then she and I left to make the first
set at Jimmy Ryans. Everyone's eyes were on her from the moment we
walked in and Omer Simeon gave me a hugh wink. After the set, we talked
with Simeon out on the sidewalk, and then we went around the corner to
Birdland and caught Dizzy Gillespie and his big band. She loved
"Manteca" and the fact that Gillespie was using a Conga drummer in
addition to the regular trap set guy.

Then, for the finale, we went a couple of doors from Birdland to a new
latin dance club. Not sure of the name, Palladium maybe. I had gone
there by mistake a week or two earlier and was blown away, not only by
the band, Perez Prado, but by a collection of the hottest young chicks
dancing that I had ever seen in my life in one place. WOW.

So we walked in. Tito Puente was playing and the most beautiful,
sexiest, hottest girls in the world were there dancing up a storm. My
"date" was thrilled. "Lets Dance" she said. "I don't know how", I said.
"I'll teach you" she said. I'd had enough Jack Daniels by then to try
anything and so we danced, and we danced and we danced. It was a
beautiful scene, like a fantasy come true, to be on the floor stumbling
around 50 or so, gorgeous young ladies provocatively swaying to great
latin jazz.

Teach me, she did, and later when we went back to the Waldorf, I learned
a few more things. What an evening!!!

Sadly a few weeks later, the club was shuttered by the New York City
Vice Squad. Someone blew the whistle on drug activities there and they
raided the place, found some drugs, and they shut it down forever.

Me? I'm convinced that there was more to it than that, because there
were drugs everywhere in the NYC clubs in those days. But to this day ,
I'm grateful that it was open when she and I were there. And on November
1st, when I see Tito Puente Jr., leading a10 piece Latin Jazz Band,
using Senior's original charts, I'll happily tell him, "Hey man, I
learned to dance at the Palladium where your dad played this music about
fifty years ago."

Steve Barbone

PS. No doubt Kash and Tito play gigs with similar lovelies in the
audience on a regular basis. Lucky dogs. And Luis? As a jazz loving
gynecologist in South America? Imagine that. ;-)

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