A warm welcome in Buenos Aires.
We recently returned from a very eventful twelve day tour of Brazil and Argentina. Our promoter Mariano Cardozo did a great job of taking care of us and has become a real friend, great guy. But, the most outstanding part of the whole trip was our four night stay in Buenos Aires (where Mariano is from) and where one surprise rolled out after the other.The first day was pretty much just traveling from Brazil with a little group hang upon arrival to decompress. The next day I had an online interview in the morning with the great host Mario Pergolini. A true pro asking all the right questions and playing any song mentioned at the drop of a hat. A Great sense of humor, spontaneous, very cool. Then, a long lunch, a guitar clinic at a music school and a little later a long, amazing dinner hosted by friends of Mariano.
The following morning things revved up a few notches. Another friend of Mariano's happens to be a very wealthy business mogul who owns a helicopter company among other things. We had been invited "up." (Pictures from our flight included.) We met Jorje Rodriguez at his beautiful home around noon. A little later, his wife Veronica, who is a television morning show host, joined us. We sat outside for coffee and he told us about the work he is doing to benefit the musicians of Argentina (more on that in a moment). We take cars to a large field where the helicopter comes in to pick us up: the five of us with Jorje and the driver all packed in. I'm up front with Jorje and Paulo... awesome.
We flew over all of Buenos Aires: the harbor, downtown, soccer stadiums, cathedrals, slums and finally the delta: water transportation only. That's how kids go to school and adults go to work producing food and wood delivered to local docs and sold in the city..probably all over the world. While flying over the slums, Jorje, this very successful man, pointed down and said "That's where I'm from." His parents were immigrants from Spain and, I believe, Portugal. "No food", he said. So he would do odd jobs to bring some money in. His dream was to make it in Buenos Aires as a guitar player but no one was making it as a musician in Buenos Aires. It became clear to him that the problem was money: meaning lack there of for investing in recordings, concerts, whatever it might take to prosper. So he decided at age seventeen to go get the money, then bring it back to help others. That's just what he did and is doing now, plus many other things to benefit whomever he can. (That part of the story could go on and on, I'm quite sure.)
Coming back to Jorje's place after the helicopter ride he cooked us lunch, with lots of lovely people around serving small traditional dishes while Jorje cooked meat on an outdoor grill. Drinks were served in silver and gold lined goblets made by a world famous metallurgist who's family has been producing exceptional metal work since the 1700's: Juan Carlos Pallarols. (Look him up.)
That's where the next surprise came. Just before serving the personally cooked grilled meat, Jorje presented me with a gift. A long, narrow box which contained a beautiful silver knife in an equally beautiful silver sheath. (He first asked me for a coin which is a necessary tradition when giving and receiving a knife.) This knife was made by the same Juan Carlos Pallaros who had made the above mentioned goblets. And indeed, this man had just recently finished...get ready for this one... the Chalice for Pope Francis!!!...for real!!! Needless to say, I was blown away. In description, the knife is in the style of those carried by caballeros, worn inside the waistband and used only for food and.. let's say .."protection². Eventually we made our way back to the hotel for a little rest and later went to where all of the musical ventures our new friend is developing are headquartered, including a lifelike nightclub with sound and lights, where amps and guitars (vintage!!) are made available for a private hang every Wednesday night of the year. We met and jammed with Argentinean superstar recording artists, Tango legends (very cool), movers and shakers and lovely people of all kinds. Of course, dinner and drinks followed. We left around 2:00, but these people hung until 6:00 AM!
"Done yet..?".. you might ask.
The following early afternoon I was in the lobby of the hotel with our tour manager Rick Wheeler ( the rest of our group being Wes Little on drums and Brian Allen on bass ) having coffee, waiting to be picked up to do a little needed shopping. A young man and woman, both 30-ish, nicely dressed, lovely, approached and said they had something for me. They worked for the city legislature of Buenos Aires and had come to give me a document stating that I was now an honorary citizen of Buenos Aires for my contribution to culture, and they also gave me a bronze pendant with the symbol of the city, this completely out of the blue. We took some pictures and then the car arrived, ostensibly to take me shopping. But there was a change of plans and I was off to meet Jorje Rodriguez for something. It turned out that he had arranged for me to meet Juan Carlos Pallarols in person at his studio in the old part of town, so, I did indeed meet the man in person. Let me tell you: you don't meet a world class master of an art form - who's family, literally, father to son, father to son, has been doing this for over three hundred years - every day.
The studio was a series of small apartments overflowing with artifacts and paintings produced by his family starting from the 1700's. Master works: chandeliers, candelabras, knives, flowers, goblets and much more. One of his relatives had made the official bust of the face of Evita Perone fashioning the mold from her body laying in state, as she had died suddenly. It goes on and on. Juan Carlos uses the same tools that his family has used for three centuries. They cover the walls, beautiful old things representing history and art in a way that I have never experienced personally. The work place is beautiful old wood floors, dark wood work benches and tables, fire for shaping things, a few apprentices working on various projects. (One I met had pictures of the Beatles taped to the wall at his side and was listening to Kenny Burrell.) But the feeling was that of being dropped into Michelangelo's work shop, past and present being one, a very rare environment.
Signore Pallarols was a true gentleman: mid 60's I think, as clear faced of a man as I've ever seen. Bright, gentle and earthy all at once, his simple presence I found stunning. Having shown us around and it being about time to leave he said "One more thing..". In a few moments an assistant brings out the Chalice that has just been finished for Pope Francis. (The real one, not the one on Hollywood Blvd.) It was just about to be sent off. It was simple and beautiful and he told us some little stories about its production that were very moving. I'm not a catholic, but it was a special moment to be able to be there at the beginning of a little piece of history. That chalice will exist long after we are gone and that it was on it's way to a man I respect in that position...wow, a great moment.
Ultimately, for me the most moving aspect of the whole experience was the lineage, the history so embodied in Signore Pallarols and his surroundings that I just couldn't get over. He was mild on the surface. But at a certain point, and with complete sincerity I said to him thru a translator that meeting him was for me like meeting BB King. He let out a big laugh and gave me a hug like that was the coolest thing I could have said to him. Man! That this guy had that kind of appreciation for BB King and found that a great compliment was something I will never forget.
Muchos Gracias Jorje.