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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin

Fathers and Sons



Being a father isn’t easy. Whether it is a daughter or a son, you have to live a life that is an example of who you want the child to become. It is perceived that with a daughter you are off the hook as a role model. I have discovered that this is not always the case. My daughter was taking note as I instructed my two boys in how to stand up for themselves. She has always been  remarkably self-reliant.  To a fault we often teach more than we listen. As we get older, friendship creeps into family relationships as we begin to share experiences other than learning experiences. These are golden times for all.



I had a friend in college  whose father was a general under Cuban President Juan Bautista. One year he returned to school after Christmas break with a determination not to return to Cuba until Bautista’s tyranny ended. I don’t know if he ever went back. I have been intrigued by Cuba and its music for a long time.

In 1999 the documentary film The Bueno Vista Social Club documented guitarist Ry Cooder and his son’s travels in  Cuba. It brought to the surface the music throbbing on this isolated island. The Bueno Vista Social Club CD and film exposed to the world the vast amount of talent and the energy of their music. I saw their concert in Ann Arbor and a light went on.

I wanted to see Cuba before the world swept in and changed it. Eventually I talked my  son, Bill, into accompanying me on a three-week trip to Cuba. Bill is a really good drummer and a Spanish speaker. This was a test of our friendship and we passed. We both gained insight into Cuban life and ourselves. Bill confronted unfamiliar rhythms which after many hours of practice he finally  mastered. The gentle people of Cuba befriended us and informed us with their gentleness and their joy of life. Music was everywhere. At that time it was purported that Cuba  had over 50,000 musicians who were all pretty good. Unfortunately seldom did their music have a chance to be heard in the west. In Havana it was all around us, and as the writer, Mike Gonzalez has said that Cuban music will take us to   ” timeless sensual places where dreams and desire merge in a comfortable, evocative music”.


M family


Several years ago I was in one of America’s most unique cities, New Orleans, and noticed a small item in the New Orleans Picayune that the pianist Ellis Marsalis was going to be playing at the Snug Harbor Jazz Club that night.  This was a chance to hear and meet this remarkable man who is a  modern jazz master and the patriarch of what has been called “the first family of jazz.” That evening he was accompanied by one of his  talented sons, Jason Marsalis. That was the first time that I heard Jason, who that night played both the drum set and the vibes. He is, like his  musician  brothers Wynton ( trumpet ) , Branford     ( sax ) and Delfeayo ( trombone ) commercially successful and like their father deeply involved in the development of jazz music. They all are innovators and educators.

Ellis’ brood all left the nest prepared to succeed.  Yet, all New Orleans kids come back to New Orleans to recharge. Especially when you have a teacher and dad like Ellis Marsalis.  I was lucky to catch father and son together.

John Osler

 This coming Friday and Saturday we get to hear the great Jason Marsalis at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café


And, if that isn’t enough, this Wednesday and Thursday Tumbao Brava  will bring  some of that magical Latin music Bill and I heard in Cuba

to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. What a week!




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