I was not a hipster chasing Billie Holiday between Harlem jazz clubs in the 1940s but, if I had been, I am willing to bet it felt a lot like hanging out in Vedadao’s live music emporium, La Zorra y el Cuervo (The Fox and the Crow).
Though I have been traveling to Havana for decades, I had never ventured into the club’s rather misplaced and garish London telephone booth entrance always fearing it was some horrific tourist trap that I wanted no part of. Man, have I ever been missing out!
The club feel authentic since it actually in a basement on the Rampa (23rd) just above O Ave. The door is managed by a rather over zealous bouncer who will accept no amount of charm, it seems, to get in the place if he is not ready to let you in. Depending on the times (open daily between 10 pm and 2 am) you might be prepared to spend some time in line before you dish out your 10 CUC cover charge. Yes, this is expensive by Havana standards, but keep in mind that it comes with two drinks and possibly the best jazz you have ever heard in your life! At least that was my experience.
When you enter the club you descend into a Hollywood set designer’s dream of what a jazz club should look like. A long bar to the left winds all the way down to the performance area with small tables and chairs lining your right on a small mezzanine adorned with black and white photos of performers gone by.
Up front, a tiny stage with a low hung ceiling faces towards another cluster of tiny tables where devotees gather and worship the night’s musicians. And I am with them! If I lived here (the audience is an even mix of locals and tourists alike) I think I would try to drop by each and every night! If I did, I would be treated to a new group every time; there is a different band performing every day of the month with consistent quality throughout! The club’s booking agent is one busy dude!
The night I dropped in, with some ex-pats and regular visitors in tow, Zule Guerra & Blues de Habana were owning the night. Zule had that Billie Holiday-esque stage-presence while her band of horns, saxophone, drums, bass and guitar provided her with the perfect accompaniment interspersed with enough solos to keep all of the musicians happy and engaged.
If you are a music lover, be sure to add a visit to La Zorra y el Cuervo to your Havana itinerary. La La Land’s got nothing on these cats!
La Zorra y el Cuervo
23rd and O, Vedado, Havana
Live music: 10pm-2am daily
A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based travel writer and photographer desperately trying to find his beret and grow a goatee. Photos by Heidi Hollinger.
Follow him on Twitter: AJTwistCuba and Instagram: AJTWISTtheBest