November 2007

Benny “el baby” Escalante
with special guest Hilario Duran
November 23, 2007Lula Lounge Toronto
Memories of Havana
by Arina Steel with photos by Roger Humbert
There is an old Cuban song, by Bola de Nieves (I believe) that starts out “Mama, donde son las cantantes, son de la loma en el llano, son de Havana” (Mama, where are the singers, they went to the hills, went to Havana). But, for several hours on Friday night, we know where one of Cuba’s treasures was.

Benny “El Baby” Escalante came to Lula Lounge to remind us what a tremendous contribution Cuba has given us musically. He paid tribute to many of the great Cuban singers in his own inimitable style.

Walking onto the stage in a smart six-button suit and a dapper fedora cocked to the side, he belied his 82 years. As he began to sing you could close your eyes and imagine you were back in Maxim, El Ali Bar, or the Hotel Riviera in the days of Beny More, Orchestra Aragon, Septeto Habanera, etc. Knowing how many of these greats are no longer with us, it was especially meaningful to hear Benny sing.

Accompanied by his daughter Mireya Escalante on vocals, grand daughter Glenda del Monte-Escalante on piano and son in law Mario (Mayito) del Monte Jr. on trumpet, it was a historic labour of love; The first time they have played together in Canada.

Mireya Escalante & Benny 'El Baby' Escalante
The musicians obviously were in their element playing together with this Cuban legend and when Hilario Duran appeared from the wings and sat at the piano, the “descarga“ took off and in true Cuban fashion took about 25 minutes to complete.

The tres, a Cuban instrument not heard that often in today’s salsa, was beautifully played by Hierrito and when Jalidan Castro took off on the Bongos Lula Lounge shook with rhythm and sabor.

A beautiful duet by father and daughter had the crowd in complete silence. Even if you could not understand the words, you could feel the beauty of the lyrics and their meaning, which I believe were written by Senor Escalante, many years ago. The love and respect in Mireya’s eyes, moved to be singing with her dad, were evident throughout the evening, but particularly in this number.

Personally, my heart got pretty full when he sang “En el tronco de un arbol” by Eusebio Delfin, a particular favourite of mine. The Beny More numbers were exquisite and the band joining in on vocals, were dancing and singing with true Cuban gusto.

Maestro Duran obviously enjoyed himself, always the virtuoso on the piano and singing backup. Truthfully, I have never seen him smile so much.

Hilario Duran
Glenda del Monte-Escalante, obviously comes from a long line of talent, but she showed her own style when playing. When she introduced the band and particularly her parents and grandfather, she showed tremendous confidence, and her own personality, as well as pride in her roots.

It was a wonderful evening of music and warmth and the only downside was that we all went out into the cold night to go home instead of walking out into a tropical breeze where the music always continues on.

The band
vocals: Benny 'El Baby' Escalante
vocals: Mireya Escalante
piano: Glenda del Monte-Escalante
bass: Odalys Cuesta
tres: Hierrito
trumpet: Reinier
trumpet: Mario (Mayito) del Monte Jr.
trombone: Yankar Gonzalez
congas: Picolino
timbales: Luisito Orbegoso
bongos: Jalidan Castro

Special Guest
Hilario Duran

We welcome your comments and feedback
Arina Steel
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
The Live Music Report

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