The piano movers stood at the foot of the staircase in the hallway of a walk-up in the East New York section of Brooklyn, trying to extort additional money, claiming that there were more stairs than they had anticipated. Julio Moka was having none of that, saying that he had been very clear about the exact number of stairs when the price was originally agreed upon. His wife Sara, who’d been looking on, had finally had enough and unleashed a string of invective, switching several times from spanish to english to yiddish, finally shaming the movers into hauling the old upright up the stairs and into the apartment. Four-year-old Manolo, who was watching all this from a safe distance, waited patiently for the commotion to settle before climbing up on the stool and pressing the keys down the way he had seen his older cousins do. In ten minutes, he had figured out the melody to his favorite TV show.
52nd & 8th The summer of 1966 seemed especially hot and humid. The melting pot churned and roiled as New York’s jazz radio filled the air with the sound of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”, Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father”, Walter Wanderly’s version of “Summer Samba”, Toots Theilman’s “Bluesette”, and classics by Cannonball Adderly, Chico Hamilton, and many others. It was a heady time for a young musician to come of age.