Chico y Rita and Michel Camilo

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In the depths of Sofia‘s National Palace of Culture there is this basement club. It’s kind of ambient with clusters of bar stools, open booths and good lighting.  As Michel Camilo  thumped the daylights out of the piano last night, albeit musically, I could not contain myself- my body had to move. At other moments sensory bombardment led me to just shut my eyes and get lost in the polyphony- the interspersed dulcet tones, woven harmonies and quirky variations inter-meshed with the tight local big band.

Chico y Rita
Chico y Rita

Imagination is a peculiar thing. A few chords or notes, can for me recall vivid memories and last night I was swept to Havana with nostalgia for a beloved movie- Chico y Rita. I’ve never been to Havana and Camilo is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but imagination I guess is often nonsensical.

Havana- in Chico y Rita
Havana- in Chico y Rita

This bittersweet romance film is animated with such beauty and pathos and boasts an incredible soundtrack  (HOLA!!! Bebo Valdes and Estrella Morente) that when I hear latin jazz now it’s hard not recall Chico and Rita’s story. I’m swooning!

Chico y Rita en Havana
Chico y Rita en Havana

In the riffs I hear Rita’s tears and Chico’s obstinacy. I won’t spill the plot suffice to say the film takes on a tormented bolero framework as sultry singer Rita and young pianist Chico get displaced in limelight, the music and dream chasing: Havana to New York, Paris to Las Vegas. Sometimes I wanna run away from opera and be a jazz or cabaret singer and spin it out like Rita. But then I remember how many jazz scales I’d need to learn and the little time I have as an opera singer to get everything done- so I save my jazz for the shower. One day, someday.


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