Viva La Musica
Nelson joined Vicki and Louie Laffitte in the WFDU station on May 5th.
Vicki: Welcome, Nelson. We're very grateful for your visit today.
Nelson: Thank you, Vicki, and I'm very happy to be here with you today and with my friend Louie Laffitte. It's always a pleasure to be here. This one of those Saturdays that musicians like myself look forward to due to the fact that we don't get to be played often on commercial radio, so this is a...the public actually get a treat because they get to hear the stories and the good things that happen to us, the music, so I'm always happy to be here.
Vicki: As I was telling Louie before you got here, that a person like you who has done so much excellence is what I think of when I think of you. Throughout the years you have so many stories and so much music that we could go on with this series for a long, long time before we even cover a fraction of it. What I'd like to do now is hand the microphone over to my friend Louie Laffitte and defer to his expertise.
Louie: Thank you, Vicki. As you said, it's always fun to have Nelson in the studio and tell us who he's played with just recently. Nelson, we know that you play currently with Eddie Palmieri, Cachao, Marc Anthony, on top of having your own band Son Mundano. So what's new?
Nelson: Thank God we are working alot. I'm working on an instructional video and book for the Tres under the Mel Bay series.
Louie: That would be a first. You have a lot of videos on percussion, but not on the Tres.
Nelson: Yes. So we have a lot of great things happening, and I'm always grateful for all the blessings that I get. I was talking to Oscar Hernandez last week and we were talking about when we first started playing, and we go back to Ismael Miranda in Revelacion in 1972 or 71. I remember Oscar, a young pianist, and I was so much at that time, and still am, into Arsenio Rodriguez, and we were joking of how we used to get together to make sure the Montunos on the Tres and the piano didn't clash. I've been working with Oscar lately on the Son Mundano project and he's been playing piano with the group, along with Jimmy Bosch, another good friend, and Bobby Allende, and Mark Inones and Rene Lopez Jr.
Louie: Now, when you recorded with Libre, and Groupo Folklorico, Oscar Hernandez was also the pianist there.
Nelson. We go back a long time. I'm grateful that I can have guys like that play on the Son Mundano project. Somehow when I call they come: Sonny Bravo, Alfredito Valdez. Papo Lucca. It's a funny thing, you know, playing with different piano players: I notice that Papo Lucca actually approaches the piano as a Tres player. He plays a little bit of Tres. I was noticing at this gig yesterday how Oscar's solos have become so interesting, how he is able to mix the Latin jazz that he plays with the old school, and actually there's not alot of piano players that can blend in with the Tres. He's one of the few who can sit down with me, and even though we don't rehearse, we sound like we've been playing together for so many years.
Louie: Oscar is one one the most versatile players because he's backed up India, al la Eddie Palmieri, and then play latin Jazz with Sextet Solar, progressive with Rock inflections, and I've been listening to him play show music, which he writes music for plays. He is very unique in that respect.
Nelson: We're all very honored to have him as a friend.
Vicki: I was discussing with someone yesterday about the changing scene in NY clubs were clubs are closing, even though the music is loved all over the world. I worry these days: Are we going to be the last generation? What do you think is going to happen?
Nelson: Well, We all have to start with our kids. I'm glad that all this is happening now because I still can play and talk to people about it. For instance, I did a tune on my Cd called Yo Quisiera parar de fumar because my son Nelson is a rapper, and the idea is to bring him in to the heavy salsa even though he's not a salsa singer. I brought in Orestes Vilato, Giovanni Hildago, to bring the new generation into the music that we have played for years. I have another son, Joseph. And throughout the years I did not know that my other son could really sing so well. He never told me he could sing so well, and when I heard him sing it reminded me of the old school. This is a kid who had an earring in his ear, this is a young guy. So, I asked him how he learned to sing, and it was from hearing all the good music in the house over the years as he was growing up: All the great New York and cuban singers. If we as parents play good music at home, they will learn.
Vicki: I'm seriously worried that we will be the last generation to love this true latin music.
Nelson: I was talking to Cachao yesterday, I'm playing with him next week at the Copa, and I asked him, "Hey, Cachao, how's it goin'? How's your wife?" You, know. Some of the things we talked about were what's being heard on the radio these days. His last words were, "You know, Nelson, I am 70 something years old. And the only thing I ask of you as a Tres player: Don't let the tradition die." This is a man who is a legend. We should all put that in our minds, you know. (Photo: Maestro Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Copa 5/19/01, photo by NGO web Editor: NO rights reserved: Go ahead and steal it! Enjoy!)
Vicki: You play with Marc Anthony.
Nelson: You know: Marc Anthony, besides being the great singer and performer that he is: He listens. He has me in the band to take solos and, sometimes I'll be talking about my instrument with one of his guitar players, and he will sit down and ask me interesting questions. Like, he asked me once, "How did you manage to play with Juanita Gonzalez?" That's the new piano player in town. Ricky Gonzalez, another young piano player. And i said, "Well, I never fight the piano player. I play along with him. I try not to interfere with what he's doing. I'll try to match, but not play the same thing. Play along with him" And it was interesting how Marc really got deep into the conversation, and learning.
Louie: Marc has already been here for a number of years, and has been around the likes of Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri, who we consider the masters, so, I would imagine that even if he's branching off into the english market, I don't think he's letting go of his roots.
Nelson: No he's doing both so well. One
thing about Marc Anthony is that he honors the masters. You can see the
treatment. Every time I take a solo in his band, I get a warm hug-the embrace,
man. He's one of these young singers, Louie Damon, and he didn't know who I was.
I told him, I am happy that you are going to Puerto Rico to meet some of the new rangers in town, and I hope you get in touch with some people who can teach you about the roots of this music, and where it comes from. Who was here before you? I found him to be very open minded to what I was saying, and I know he's going to do it. He's gonna do his homework, in other words.
Vicki: I know Marc holds the masters in very high esteem, respects his culture and has extensive knowledge, and I just hope we can get the rest of your young people to do that as well.
Nelson: On the Cachao Master Sessions II, we played one of the fastest tunes I ever played, Juana La Coja, with Orestes Vilato and Richie Flores. We had Cachao goin', man! We really sped up that tune, but it came out so good, you know.
Louie: Nelson: How is it working with Maestro Cachao Lopez?
Nelson: I've been working with him since 1974, and I used to ask him alot of questions about El Nino Rivera. I still do, you know. I still ask him alot of questions. He tries to keep these traditions, still. I'm very happy that he still uses the Tres. He told me the other day, "Do you realize that you have taken Nino Rivera's chair?" I told him, "Who's gonna take my chair?"
Louie: You're not giving up that chair any time soon, I hope. Vicki, when we talk about our music and our culture, we're very fortunate that we still have a band like Cachao's keeping it alive. The fact that you're playing at the Copa says something.
Vicki: I'm afraid we're coming to the end of our time here today, but, please come back to hear part four of this series on July 14th, when we'll discover more about this remarkable man who is sitting here before Louie and myself: Such an accomplished giant, a star, and a modest Giant, too. He knows so much and has so much to offer. He has done so much that it is an honor to have him sitting in this studio, so we certainly look forward to the next time.
Louie: Vickie, thank you so much. The pleasure's all mine.
Nelson: Thank you, Vicki, for having me come to the show. It's always a pleasure to be here with you, and talk about things that happen to us musicians. I guess this is the only program where we can really express ourselves and educate the public on what really goes on. Thank you, Louie.