I'm talking about music, friendship, and more music. And PEOPLE! you see, there's this guy -- Bobby Carcasses. He's a musician from Cuba, and is probably in his 70s. He sings, plays piano and flugelhorn, drums, you name it. Oh, and he came here to give a massive concert Friday night. He was the resident artist for a few days at the university, and then gave a sell-out concert at a big hall.
Last night, we got a call from a colleague of Dr. Smartypantz's, saying that he was having a little reception at his house for Bobby, and would we like to come? Bring the kids! Um. YES!?!
We show up, and over the next hour or so, people trickle in. Our kids played with the host's kids and some others who came later. Soon, the catered food arrived (Jamaican chicken, rice/beans, oxtail, cabbage, and plantains). A total of maybe 20 adults finally settled in to eat, drink, and be merry.
However, two of Rodney's (the host) kids had had birthdays recently and he had been in Indonesia playing some concerts, so there were birthday cakes! The kids began clamoring for cake. Well, you can't have cake without singing "Happy Birthday," right?
Rodney is a bassist, and he has one of his basses in the corner of the living room, along with a cello and various other instruments (electric keyboards, amps, etc.)..
I heard from the living room "ba doom boom boom ba DOOMP ba doo DOOP" being played on the bass. One of Rodney's students was trying it out, for fun. Then Rodney took over. More "baDOOMping." Then a percussionist grabbed a cardboard box that had held the kids' CapriSun juice packs and ripped it artfully, making a drum pad. He had his sticks and brushes with him, and so he started sssssshhh-ssshhhh-sshshshhshh--ing. Somebody else grabbed a tin of Altoid mints and used them as a maraca.
Then the electric piano (in the next room) was being used to get the crowd singing Happy Birthday. Let me tell you -- that was the best damned version of Happy Birthday I've ever heard. Bobby started singing along, the two female gospel singers started twirling and flying their beautiful voices over the melody...
Pretty soon, all the instruments got corralled into one room, and they started to play. Trumpets, 'drums,' piano, singers, Altoids, a beer bottle being tapped with a fountain pen in lieu of a cowbell. Clapping, stomping, singing, hooting....
Then. Bobby wanted to sing. He sat at the keyboard and began. Gorgeous, soulful Cuban songs. There were tears in the eyes of so many of us. He segued to something upbeat and hot. The drummer joined in, then the trumpets. Rodney's student played bass. Pretty soon, Rodney's 3-year-old son grabbed the cello form the other room and planted himself next to the singer and pretended it was a bass. Nobody stopped him. Bobby smiled a bit.
Bobby asked the other musicians if they could accompany him on "My FUnny Valentine" in d minor. And off we went. He sang. It was rough -- gravelly. Gorgeous. Then he picked up his flugelhorn and played. One woman was a club singer (jazz mostly) and she started to croon, to sing over his flugelhorn solos.
The best way to describe it was this: imagine being in a room full of regular brown birds. And every so often, one of them opened up their tailfeathers and became a peacock. And they would show their azure feathers like it was nothing at all. Then they'd close them back up, go about their business, as another little brown bird turned into a thing of beauty.
You'd never ever know how amazing these people were from just looking. There were no stylish fashions. No Botox or perfect bodies. No riveting drama. NOBODY handed out business cards. Nobody exchanged phone numbers. No flirting. No arguing. No crying in a bathroom. No tension.
Just people. Trading places at the piano or the bass. Dancing in the hallway. Dancing with the kids.
Plopping down on the couch next to one of the most famous Cuban musicians in the world.