By Theo Douglas | Staff writer | Redlands Daily Facts
Pushing the weekend ever farther into the week is the latest mid-week offering—Havana Club Cohiba, which, as you might suspect by its name, is held at Club Cohiba, the veteran downtown cigar bar upstairs from Mum’s Restaurant.
Cohiba, a fully formed Mum’s appendage, was dark Wednesday nights before the Havana event hit. Now, Wednesdays in July—in fact, Wednesdays for the next six months—are earmarked as Latin music night.
Latin jazz, salsa, meringue—it’s all in the works. Salsa kings Tres-Dos kicked things off July 2, a night of surprises. It was a muggy evening when folks could have been resting up for the three-day weekend, or inventorying their fireworks selection, but instead they turned out to dance—a boon to Cohiba chief John Morris and series booker Vince Jordan of A-RARE Company.
Those with good memories may recall the first time the two men collaborated on a gig. It was the early ‘90s. MC Hammer was still reasonably solvent, Kurt Cobain’s passing was still being deeply felt and the swing music revival was gathering steam.
When a rift developed in the then-partnership that owned Blue Cafe nearby, Jordan wound up getting Downey roots-rock originators the Blasters a gig at Cohiba. With James Intveld filling in for Dave Alvin on guitar, the group packed Cohiba with a diverse crowd of hard-core swing-dancers in middy blouses, sleeveless undershirts and high-waisted pants.
Blue Cafe partners promptly mended fences, and the rest is history—until the club’s sale last year and Jordan’s recent exodus.
“That” s actually what brought this together,’’ Jordan says of the Blasters’ show, dapper as always in a suit on Havana’s recent opening night. “(Morris) remembered that, and he gave me a call.” ‘
Songs in a Latin key are just a transposition away from Jordan’s more regular fare of blues and, he says, lining up the bands was one of the easier parts of the job. Making Havana stand out from the other nightspots near Pine Avenue and Broadway is a little trickier, for some of them offer Latin music, too.
“I want it to be a better, more diversified mix of sounds,” ’ Jordan says, offering his strategy for making Wednesdays unique. “Latin jazz, meringue, salsa—we want to get some good acts in here.” ‘
Coming up Wednesday, you’ll find Latin jazzmeister Johnny Blas, and if you miss him, don’t worry, he’ll return July 30. Sandwiched in between, on July 23, are the tuneful likes of the Estrada Brothers, a Latin jazz sextet who have been playing this stuff since the ‘50s, when they were inspired by the likes of jazzmen Cal Tjader and Lionel Hampton.
Cohiba’s already a well-known cigar bar, with featured varieties every week that are available at lower cost. Whether the Havana series can breathe new life into it on a weekly basis—and carve out yet another niche in the downtown club scene—remains to be seen. Jordan, for one, feels the club’s musical offerings are a cut above.
“I don” t know where you can go downtown to hear these kind of acts on a Wednesday night,’’ he says.
HAVANA CLUB COHIBA, Club Cohiba, 110 Broadway, Long Beach California; (562) 437-7700. 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Cover is $10.