Today’s Global Hit journeys from Poland to Los Angeles by way of Cuba. Betto Arcos has the story of a new CD of songs that were recorded decades ago. It’s called the Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina. Download MP3
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LISA MULLINS: Today’s Global Hit journeys from Poland to Los Angeles by way of Cuba. Betto Arcos has the story of a new CD of songs that were recorded decades ago. It’s called The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina.
BETTO ARCOS: The story of The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina begins in 1939. That’s when the Schrage family left Poland to escape the Nazis.
MORRIE SCHRAGE: We got as far as England, and when the bombs started dropping on England, my father thought it was time to get out.
ARCOS: That’s Morrie Schrage, now 80 years old and a successful car dealer in Los Angeles.
SCHRAGE: So the only place he could get a visa for was Santo Domingo. The only visa he could get. But the boat stopped in Havana, and we got off the boat and that’s how we got to Cuba.
ARCOS: Morrie Schrage and his older brother Harry were teenagers when they arrived in Cuba with their family. That was in 1941. They lived in Matanzas, a couple hours from Havana. Morrie Schrage says his brother was a budding audiophile and loved Cuban music.
SCHRAGE: He loved good sounds, good music, and when we visited Casa Marina, the trios were strolling, strolling among the clients in the nightclub.
ARCOS: Casa Marina was one of the many nightclubs the brothers frequented in 1950s Havana. Morrie says his brother Harry came up with a plan to record some of the trios they heard on their rounds.
SCHRAGE: He built a studio in his bedroom in Matanzas, put cork on the walls and that was the studio. And he went to Miami to buy the state of the art equipment, the Ampex reel-to-reel, and the microphones and all that stuff.
ARCOS: Harry persuaded two groups to come to his home studio to record. You can hear Harry in the background on the recording of this bolero called “La Ultima Noche.” The recordings are a mix of classic boleros, ballads and upbeat songs. They were done in 1958, just a year before the Cuban Revolution. In 1959, the Schrage family left Cuba and moved to the US and the tapes went with them. In 1973, Harry Schrage died at the age of 46. His tapes lay in a closet at his widow’s house in Seattle. Then a few years ago, she gave them to Morrie.
SCHRAGE: I knew about them but I didn’t think that they would be good enough to do anything with, so one day I asked Jimmy to listen to them and Jimmy liked them, so Jimmy took over.
ARCOS: Jimmy is Jimmy Maslon of the label, Ahi Nama Music. He says the recording is unusual.
JIMMY MASLON: We recorded these groups directly. There was no multi-tracks or anything like that. He miked it directly to the stereo recording. It’s one reason the quality is so nice, it wasn’t going to one tape and then mixed down to another. These were the exact tapes that he recorded to, is what we mastered on.
ARCOS: Morrie says The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina is dedicated to his brother Harry. After all, it was his idea to record the music he loved so much. For The World, I’m Betto Arcos, Los Angeles.
MULLINS: From the Nan and Bill Harris studios at WGBH in Boston, I’m Lisa Mullins. Thanks for tuning in.
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