In December of 2007, a Cuban friend of mine, Cristóbal, who had been the bass player with Paulito for many years sent me an email from Havana: "Sigo trabajando con Paulo," he wrote, "aunque estoy trabajando con un grupo nuevo que se llama Habana d'Primera, es el grupo de Alexander el trompeta, te cuento que están los mejores músicos de la Habana."
["I'm still working with Paulo, although I'm also working with a new group called Havana D'Primera, it's the group of Alexander, the trumpet player, and I tell you: they're the best musicians in Havana."]
Very little was known about the group at that stage - they had only been playing for about a month. When I asked what kind of music they were playing - because I thought, maybe it was jazz, given Alxeander's past, he replied: "El grupo de Alexander lo que toca es timba, y buena jaja."
["Alexander's group plays timba - and it's good!"]
When I arrived in Havana the following May, I discovered he was right on both counts: they were some of the best musicians in Havana (including himself, now living in Mexico, and out of the Havana music scene) and they played timba buena. It was clear there was already a vibe about them: musicians from other bands frequented their gigs whenever they could and most of the gigs were well-attended. I felt they would be an important band in the timba canon, if only for the presence of Alexander and the musicians he had brought together, and quickly realised I should do an interview to capture the moment.
When I went to see them for the third time, I spent the gig working up the courage to introduce myself to him, but he beat me to it, heading directly for me when the show had ended to talk to me. That was pretty special. I still don't know if he knew I was a journalist/blogger or if was just acknowledging an obvious fan.
I did an interview that year and one the year after, after they had recorded their debut, Haciendo historia. I took a break in 2010, but with the recording of their second album underway, and a marked increase in their profile in Havana evident, I thought 2011 was the right time to talk to Alexander again. Always articulate and thoughtful, it was just as rewarding as the previous interviews. In the interview, which is posted at timba.com (I may duplicate it here.) He ranges over the development of the band and its popularity; how the band approaches the recording process and reggaeton and salsa in Cuba today. Many thanks to Martin Karakas for his help with it, and to Paulina Vidal for her help on the two previous interviews.