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Pablo Menendez Shines at Makor

It was an exciting evening. I was going to see Pablo Menendez, an incredibly unique guitarist and songwriter, whom I was only recently exposed to. Pablo was born in Oakland but went to school in Cuba in 1966 to study art at Escuela Nacional de Arte at the tender age of 14. He got married, raised a family and has made this island nation his home ever since. Promoting a hot, new record (CD release party) with unbelievable compositions, half penned by Pablo, he took NYC by storm. His opening selection, which is featured on both his new record Havana Blues Mambo and on his band Mezcla’s record entitled AKIMBA!, is a fantastic piece written by Chucho Valdez. The tune, Mambo Influenciado, was an uplifting number to begin the evening.

For the second tune, guitarist Benjamin Lapidus joined the band. This number was written by the great Cuban bassist, "Cachao" Israel López . The tune is called Buena Vista Social Club and featured the great Harvie S on bass. A traditional Yoruba selection followed with the inimitable voice and percussion of Pedrito Martinez. Before this song, Pablo talked about the African element in Cuban music and the incredible will and imagination of peoples of the African diaspora. An Eduardo Miranda selection followed. Susie’s Mood was dedicated to Mongo Santamaria, whose daughter was in the audience.

Charlie Parker’s classic Donna Lee was amazing and featured the great Ben Lapidus on tres. Several of Ben’s compositions followed, including Tres is the Place. The band closed the evening with an Irving Berlin song about Cuba. Although the band played a 75-minute set, they still had more to give. Unfortunately, they had to stop playing because of noise complaints upstairs. Not that I was disappointed, but I could have sat and listened to the band for a long time and, according the drummer, William Bausch, they had rehearsed many other numbers they planned to play that evening. I certainly would have loved to hear more from Pablo’s new recording on the Zoho label, Havana Blues Mambo, which I highly recommend. The group was rounded out by Daniel Kelly on piano and Paul Carlson on sax.

Afterward, the band was great, hanging out and talking with the audience and taking pictures with us. The music created a very warm feeling. Stirred on by the great music, my friends and I were inspired. Our next stop was the Village Vanguard for a set by Roy Haynes, two days after his 80th birthday. Following a fantastic set, we had a brief chat with Roy, and closed the evening around the corner at the 55 Bar. Leni Stern was performing new selections that will appear on her upcoming record.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Pablo Menendez
  • Concert Date: 3/15/2005
  • Subtitle: Cuban Blues
  • Venue: Makor
  • City State Country: New York, New York, USA
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