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Go Behind the Scenes

Artists: Candido Camero

Essay | Video Transcript

Candido's Melody
by Producer Pamela Aguilar

Days shy of his 87th birthday, Candido Camero arrived for our shoot looking dapper and tremendously dignified.

Taking thoughtful steps, aided by a cane, he walked towards me. I saw in his eyes the glamorous era of big bands, concert halls, and snazzy nightclubs, as well as the rich musical history that traveled with him from his native Cuba.

This was our first face-to-face meeting. We'd had a few brief phone conversations - on the rare occasions I caught him at home, just back from an out-of-town gig or on his way to play at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

As our crew finalized the set, Candido and I sat off stage discussing the upcoming scene. I watched in awe as he began to prepare; a ritual he'd performed before hitting the stage with greats like Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, and Stan Kenton. The secret to playing the conga, he said, is all in your fingertips. Carefully, he wrapped each finger with strips of white medical tape.

The plan seemed simple: when given the signal, Candido was to walk from stage left to his congas and improvise for a minute or two, to allow our camera to capture his every move.

He seemed amused by the idea, but also took it seriously. He steadied and waited for his cue.

When Candido began to play, in a flash before my eyes, he transformed into a man half his age and played with finesse, mastery, and ease. He lit up the stage as melodic rhythms radiated and touched every one of us standing a few feet away. The camera roamed up and down, inches away from his hands and face.

Around take four (we did six total), I checked in with him. He said he was fine, but the exercise we'd requested was little difficult. I asked him why. He said that for each take, he was playing every note exactly as he'd done on the first take.

Wow, hardly improvising! Perfection, Maestro.

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