The plane landed in Jose Marti – La Habana international airport… He quietly looked out of the window curiously before whispering in the back of his mind ‘Azim’, an Arabic word for Great.. He had been assigned by his company on a six months project in Cuba and to him this was more than just a trip..
He made his way through the tarmac and into the passport check, he could already breath the island’s humid air and feel the freshness.. ‘mmmm’ he mumbled.. ‘That’s exactly what I want’ he added speaking to himself..
He was wearing a beige blazer with an wide open white shirt and his short pony tail is visible dangling under his white fedora hat with a black stripe… with only a small carry-on bag and a black case hung on his back he made his way through the passport check with a wide smile those who know him would only know what it would signify.. The man at the passport check couldn’t care much but the smile of the man caught his attention..’ What is the purpose of your visit Senor?’ the officer asked… Without having that wide smile part his lips he answered very quickly ‘Music…’ , then he noticed, ‘ No sorry , work , well it’s work and music.. it’s really hard to explain !! ’
The officer looked at the black case on his back.. And looked at him giving him an uncomfortable smirk ‘ I see.. You seem so excited senor..B’ but before he could even continue the sentence.. The man answered ‘That’s because I am’.. The officer looked at the passport and the papers and stamped his arrival whispering to himself ‘Un otro loco !!’ and The man smiled widley and replied ‘Si, Gracias!’ while taking his passport and making his way out..
On his way out he found a sign with his name.. Carried by a local man with a typical blue Cuban shirt with with some intertwined stripes on each shoulder striding down the shirt..
The man looked at him excitedly … ‘Ah you must be Felipe?’ And the man answered ‘ Si, Senor, you must be …’ And the man nodded.. The man added quickly ‘Let’s go my friend’
Felipe nodded taking the black case and the carry-on bag, ‘Your first time in Cuba?’ Felipe asked.. And the man nodded quietly..
They both rode into a Ford 1956 Maquina… The man took a quick tour around the car just smelling it.. while Felipe just stood there looking at him as if he was a madman.. ‘Oh don’t mind me.. Please.. Am just so excited to be here..’ And then he rode next to Felipe…
Felipe kicked off the conversation ‘So Senor , the company has arrangements prepared for you , an apartment, and car and ..’
The man added ‘ Felipe, where’s Zorra y el Cuervo’ and Felipe looked right at him, ‘Oh Senor you know it ?’
‘Si , I do !!’ he replied quite instantly.. Felipe smiled , ‘Ok, then tonight , I take you there Senor!’
‘Azim!’ he replied with a smile becoming even broader and Felipe looked at him with a weird non-understanding look on his face.. And the man laughed wildly ‘My friend it means Great!’
Thirty minutes later they arrived at the apartment where he will be staying and Felipe helped him out..
They agreed to meet at 10..
As the day went by the man worked on a bit of his assignment but his mind was focused on one thing.. Zorra Y El Cuervo!
As the time flew by , he got dressed and waited for Felipe who picked him on time and drove through the busy night streets of Habana Cuba , Felipe noticed the black suitcase and asked him about it , and the man explained he never walks around without it, they kept driving until they parked a few blocks away from the bar..
They walked down the stairs from the red telephone booth entrance and into the basement where the club is and the smoke was already in the air.. As the night began and all the jazz fans and couples sat down to enjoy the music.. The man moved up to the bar ordering 2 shots of tequila for him and Felipe..
Felipe began to tell him the story of the place.. ‘This is one of the most known places in all of Habana.. Fans here come to visit it as a place of worship and religion.. If they go to Church on Sunday morning for Mass.. They come here at night for Jazz.. Jazz in Cuba is religion Senor!’
The man’s smile grew wider.. As he looked around and took his shot of tequila.. It was as if it was his first.. Everything about it felt different..
He looked around.. And before Felipe could even notice , he found him taking his black suitcase and moving up to the band.. And with a very poor Spanish accent he said ‘¿Puedo tocar con usted?’ . To which the band leader looked at him smiling , ‘We also speak English! But what can you play?’
He smiled as he opened his suitcase and got out his base guitar.. The band looked at him.. And one of them asked him ‘So what can you play?’
Another one asked ‘How about En La Oscuridad’ … The man looked at them and nodded.. And the band bassist gave him his spot and they all waited to see if he would succeed or fail the test..
Felipe walked up to him and handed him two things, and smiled as he said ‘ Senor , since you’re going to do this , you will need those’ and he handed him a a freshly lit Cuban cigar and a shot of tequila..
‘Azim’ the man replied
And the song began.. And he began to play with his guitar following the classic theme of the song, and the man looked at him as he began to get in the mood , his eyes shut as he got in the mood, the smoke of the cigar flowing up and dancing all around his head.. As the place heated up and everyone began to swoon to the music and enjoy .. He himself.. Just submitted to the trance and let his fingers take the lead.. Very carefully the men began to like him and the song went on ..
And as they just finished, sweat droplets began to rise all over his forehead but the smile didn’t part him and the Cigar just became his best new buddy.. He took the shot of tequila all at once.. And Felipe moved up to him and pat him on the shoulder ‘ Senor , are you sure you are in the right career?’
The man smiled and replied ‘ Am not sure but I sure will find out’
His hands were just starting to warm up as the heat of the room arose with the amount of smoke that became more and more dense while the scent of Cuba hovered all over the room from local cigarettes and famous Cuban cigars..
sweat drops of pleasure and love just slipped from his hair down to his very thick black beard.. He held the cigar with back of jaw.. And just looked up at the lamps , closed his eyes.. took a deep breath and then pulled off the cigar and just let the smoke fly freely above the horizon dancing among the rays of light coming from the lamps..
The band leader added ‘ Mas Senor?”
He knew having had that invitation continue jamming all night was both the pleasure he so long yearned for and passion that drove his love for life and music..
He turned to the band leader and smiled that big smile he just walked in with .. And replied very calmly ‘Si, Senor… Let’s entertain the crowd’
And the leader smiled back .. ‘Sure El Corto’
And the continued to play and jam all night as the trance heightened and shot after shot , song after song , the people moved more and more.. And the night heightened..
And by the end of the night the band had a nickname for the man ‘ El Corto Azim’
By the end of the night exhausted , sweating as if he had run for miles.. His fingers numb.. Felipe walked up to him… Only one day in Habana and you already got yourself fans and a nickname.. The coming six months are definitely going to be interesting Senor ‘Bishoy’
And the man smiled widely and replied ‘ Azim’ !