Saturday, February 7, 2009


Last night, we went out clubbing. OK, it was just one club, but it was great shakes for us because we haven't been out to see live music that wasn't long-hair in years. We went to the Dakota, in its Minneapolis location. The joint was previously located in Bandanna Square in St. Paul, but we had never been there either.

First, the food was equal to the best we have had anywhere in town. The beet and goat cheese salad could be had anywhere, but my Divers Scallops on a bed of caramelized cauliflower and risotto was unique and wonderful. I've been roasting cauliflower lately, and enjoying Indian spiced cauliflower, so was pleased to see yet another treatment for this cruciferous (aka brassica) vegetable. Carolyn had the sweet potato gnocchi with mushrooms and baby bok choy - another brilliant treatment of what could have been a cacophony of flavors, but blended artfully.

Second, the company was wonderful - Steve and Peggy are a fascinating couple with a dedication to making life better for others, reflected by their past service in the Peace Corps, and continuing through the present with Steve's representation of clients in his immigration law practice and Peggy in her loving service as a school social worker, making the world better one kid at a time. They aren't going to read this, so I can gush a little. We talked about everything and anything until the music started.

Well, and the music.... I initially was anxious about this portion of the night, because I knew it would be loud, and thought it might be a migraine trigger. However, the instruments spoke for themselves with little amplification, and it was no problem. The performers were led by Nachito (diminutive for Ignacio) Herrera, a Cuban permanent resident of the US (lucky, lucky us) who was there with his family and friends for his once a month gig at the Dakota. Peggy and Steve who are his friends, and now our friends, invited us for the evening and we are immensely grateful to them. The style of music is Afro-Cuban All Stars, Cuban Latin jazz. Herrera is classically trained and it shows in how he plays piano - as Carolyn said he owned the piano last night. I said, the piano reminded me at the end of the night of a horse that had been ridden very, very hard - a little wobbly, but happy. We were fortunate to have the best seats in the house for seeing his hands on the keyboard - blurred much of the time with speed. Every one played brilliantly, including two college boys from Eau Claire who will be going to Cuba with Herrera this year for a tour, showing off on trumpet and sax.

Herrera and a group of friends/Cuban musicians will tour the country this year and will be making 40-some stops around the country before coming back to Minnesota to perform at Orchestra Hall. I know where I am going to be on March 25. Until then, Herrera and the band are rehearsing at the MacPhail building. Last night, they sat in with the band frequently, adding fabulous diversity to the sound. It was as fun to see subtle direction to the rest of the band coming from the big man at the piano, and them following the cabalistic clues. Each piece started out very much a standard strain, then blew apart into fantastic improvisation. I have a hard time with modern visual art that deconstructs the visual stream (I'm better with the thematic stuff like Matthew Barney), but in the musical sphere, I love it. Haven't the skills or discipline to see the total music structure; but it's like kayaking white water, you can't see the shoreline, but who cares? It's fun!

We sat next to Herrera's family and the musicians when they weren't performing. Every now and then, in response to something brilliant happening on stage, they'd utter a single word - "agua." Water, as in, some one get some water because that is HOT! Sometimes shouted, sometimes whispered, the word quenched my recent longing for something outside of my current norm.

I'm going to fish out my Cuban jazz CDs and dance today - I'm getting PT for lower back pain, and my therapist told me I need to connect my brain to my ass. Evidently, there is zero muscle tone and I have forgotten how to twitch the booty. Yes, it's been a while since I went out dancing......

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