Album cover

Alfonso Lovo: The Giant

*December 12, 1971, was an active news day in Costa Rica. Although hijackings were commonly reported items for a region embroiled in Communism’s tug of war, the chain of events detailed in La Nacion on this Sunday was an anti-fascist’s dream—a revolution-discouraging tale of what happens when you try and play Red Rover in the democratic Americas. After takeoff from Miami, three armed men boarded a state-owned Nicaragua-bound Lanica plane during a connection in San Salvador, and then burst into action at cruising altitude, demanding that the captain veer toward Cuba. When the crew explained that there was only enough fuel to make it to their destination—Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua—a mile-high accord was struck: The plane would land at Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria airport for refueling. Due to a centuries-old border dispute, Costa Rica was not the most hospitable place for Nicaraguans. While La Nacion noted a five-alarm convoy of civil guards and policemen coming to the vessel’s aid, Costa Rica’s apathetic strategy and apparent unwillingness to help the distressed vessel were driving the situation toward a violent breaking point.

As La Nacion told it:

The pirates had a new attempt. They demanded once again for the fuel tanks to be filled. The authorities repeated their refusal. The hijackers announced that they would let all the men go and that they would keep all the women and children as hostages. The authorities answered with a categorical “No” to the hijackers’ new petition.

This was followed by a period of silence that was broken by the hijackers using the pilot as an interpreter with the plane’s radio.

They threatened to injure one of the passengers if their requests were not granted. The authorities maintained their position, and at a little bit after 1 p.m., one of the hijackers coldly fired three shots at young Alfonso Lovo—the son of Nicaragua’s Agriculture Secretary. Gravely wounded, he was escorted out of the plane by another passenger, who was set free as well. He was driven immediately to the Mexico hospital were he received surgery by Dr. Garcia Urbina.

The media reported that young Lovo had three bullet wounds, the gravest of them being a wound in the abdomen. The bullets pierced his intestine, his liver, his gall bladder, and other organs. At 7 p.m., his condition was still delicate, although he was considered to be out of danger.

After Alfonso Lovo was out of harm’s way, passengers were released, while the crew was detained on board. Refueling began, but the aggravated hijackers rendered the plane inoperable by hastily firing bullets through the windshield as the engines overheated. After being denied a new vessel, the trio tried to escape on foot, but all three were slain or apprehended in short order.

La Nacion’s reportage somewhat truncated the tally of Alfonso Lovo’s injuries. Present-day scarring reveals that not three, but six politically-charged rounds reached Lovo—one struck his thigh, four entered his midsection, and one tore through his left hand. In total, Lovo suffered 18 intestinal punctures and an injured liver, which faltered in the aftermath. His hand, which he’d placed in front of him when shots were fired, remains misshapen, even after a dozen surgeries repaired it over the subsequent decades. La Nacion sold some papers and buttressed a few ideals with their sensational account, starring the machine gun-toting Costa Rican President Jose Figueres Ferrer, who delivered the season’s catchphrase: “I will get those gunmen out of there myself!” But from his first-class seat, the 20-year-old Lovo awaited his fate while watching a standoff-via-radio unfold, in which the 5-foot, 3-inch Figueres boasted that there was more than enough land in his country to bury all the Nicaraguans aboard, and that they’d never negotiate with terrorists.

Among flight BAC-111-149’s threatened passengers, Lovo was a model of calm. Told they would be flying to Cuba, Alfonso replied, “Good, I’ll be able to go to the Copacabana tonight and hear some good music.” Nacion’s article, thousands of heroic words long, also omitted more complicated dimensions of the standoff. Nicaragua’s socialist revolutionary Sandinistas, a classmate of Lovo’s among them, had hoped to use the dignitary’s son as a bargaining chip in a number of rebellious scenarios: One entailed holding him hostage in Cuba, and extorting money from either his family or the Somoza dynasty which had controlled Nicaragua for more than a quarter century, in addition to gainfully employing Lovo’s father. Another option, audibled upon landing in Costa Rica, involved trading Lovo for Humberto Ortega, an imprisoned Sandinistan military leader. His brother, Daniel Ortega, would later serve as Nicaraguan president from 1985 to 1990 under the Sandinistan regime. Regardless of the stakes, as the hijackers grew more desperate and President Figueres grew more indignant, the front row of this international flight became incredibly dangerous seats to occupy. Both Communism and Nicaraguans were unwanted houseguests in Costa Rica. A face-off between warring tribes, this was a deadly game in which Figueres had nothing to lose.

Figueres’ bold actions that day, including the tarmac brandishing of a submachine gun, would make Time Magazine within the month, but render him unwelcome in convalescent Alfonso Lovo’s hospital room. After his recovery in Costa Rica, Lovo spent only a few days of early 1972 in Managua before returning to school in Atlanta, Georgia, at the leading edge of his life’s on-again/off-again affair with his native Nicaragua and the forces that occupy it.
Lovo Family Portrait, 1972
Alfonso Noel Lovo Blandón was born August 12, 1951, in León, Nicaragua, a coastal town just northwest of capital city Managua, to father Alfonso Lovo Cordero—a well-connected confidant of Nicaragua’s ruling Somoza clan—and mother Teresa Blandón. While his family was not particularly musical, their relative wealth enabled them to support young talent. After watching a Spanish salesman play “Oh Holy Night” during an accordion demo, five-year-old Alfonso was able to replay the carol note-for-note on his own red Honher, freshly unwrapped on Christmas morning. Raised in Managua, Alfonso developed fluency with the bellows-driven instrument that made him an asset to his Catholic school, where faculty exploited the kindergartner’s skills at school functions. The worldwide cultural phenomenon surrounding Elvis Presley, though, had young Alfonso looking to supplement his squeezebox abilities. Witnessing how his family’s gardener hypnotized females with Spanish translations of Presley tunes, Alfonso thought, “Wow—this guy got all the girls with this guitar, and all I’ve got with the accordion is these nuns.” Glued to a borrowed acoustic, Lovo learned the rudiments of guitar, and continued to grind at the organ, leading him to one of his life’s most significant musical friendships. A Catholic league basketball game would pit his high school against that of León native Jose “Chepito” Areas, a drummer of expanding repute. School administrators, aware of their respective students’ musical aptitude, suggested that a few pupils band together to provide half-time entertainment, pairing Lovo and Areas together for the first time. Lacking a proper drum set, they fashioned a kit from marching band equipment, using a stick to hold up the cymbal and resting the snare drum on top of the bass drum. After that impromptu performance, Chepito would return to his native León, never encountering Alfonso again during his teenage years.

In addition to a host surf rock and British invasion-era usual suspects, the frothy longboard instrumentals of Tacoma, Washington’s Ventures, had gained broad popularity across Latin America; in the early 1960s, Alfonso Lovo took a shine to their reverb-drenched instrumentals and progressive recording processes. A capable player and an unwilling student, Lovo preferred to learn music by ear rather than committing time to sight-reading exercises. The diminutive Lovo couldn’t get into nightclubs and instead began hanging out at Union Radio, where stars from throughout Latin America came to promote current records and regional tours. Alfonso Lovo, himself a “Junior,” called his earliest band Los Juniors, an act that also featured Jorge Cardenas Jr., Alfredo Cole Jr., and Emilio Ortega Jr. and performed its first gig at the Gonzales Theater with an all-instrumental set consisting of “Blue Moon,” “Walk Don’t Run,” “Wipeout,” and other surf-centric offerings. At age 13, Lovo made a trip with his family to New York City, during which Alfonso and his father gorged themselves on electric instruments at a midtown Manhattan music shop. “You can pay me back with your profits,” predicted the elder Lovo. A Fender Jazzman bass and guitar, a Fender Twin amplifier, and a Ludwig drum kit were purchased, packed, and shipped back to Managua. That Fender guitar accompanied Alfonso on various international stints, first to a language school in Decatur, Texas, where Lee Black, a John Deere salesman, taught Alfonso the rudiments of country music. Lovo next saw England, where he doubled as a student and a Bag O’Nails Club regular. Recognizing music as a passion, not a profession, Lovo set his academic sights on chemistry and engineering, enrolling at Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology in 1969.

When steamboats began utilizing the San Juan River and Nicaragua Lake to transport Atlantic coastal American gold prospectors of the 1850s within a dozen miles of the Pacific Ocean, the traffic en route to the Golden State in turn made San Francisco a destination of choice for Nicaraguans. Savvy navigators had found that Nicaragua trimmed months from the Cape Horn route and days off the Panamanian shortcut; Nicaraguan locals thereby hitched rides on the abundant California-bound vessels that passed over their waterways and countryside. Like their fair-skinned neighbors to the North, generations of Nicaraguans began migrating to California in search of a new life and new opportunities. The vehicles changed, but the well-trod path from Nicaragua to the West Coast stayed busy. In 1965, Jose “Chepito” Areas left León for San Francisco, with hopes of furthering his career in music.

“They used to call me Gene Krupa from Nicaragua!” Chepito remembered. The young drummer had come to prominence on the Nicaraguan music scene through his work with family band Los Satellites del Ritmo, which included his percussionist sister and trumpet-playing brother among its ranks. Doctor/guitarist Poliberto Correa would employ Chepito as timekeeper for his Los Music Masters (neé Polimusic) concern, considered by many Nicaragua’s first rock group. Gaining notoriety with Nicaraguan versions of Mexican covers of Anglo-rock standards, the Masters’ greatest contribution to their nation’s musical identity is inarguably their Santa Cecilia liquor jingle, which would become a ubiquitous theme of the ’60s, no less recognized than Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” stateside campaign. “I was going to come to the United States to play jazz,” explained Chepito of his exodus from Nicaragua, “but if you play jazz music [in San Francisco], or Latin music, you don’t make no money.” Chepito found a solution in the Aliens, an established quintet of Nicaraguan and Salvadorian lineage that played an effective fusion of Latin and rock music to mixed Bay Area audiences. Mexican-American Ritchie Valens had laid a cornerstone for Latin rock in 1958 with his take on the Mexican folk song “La Bamba,” a smash for Del-Fi by all standards that definitively called the tune for Latino youths hoping to operate within the newly fermented subgenre. While it’s apparent that certain songs in the rock canon had found widespread appeal among Latinos, the Aliens helped expose San Francisco’s beatniks, hipsters, and hippies to a crossover Latin rock. Chepito had been riffing on many styles of music back home, but had kept his interests and outputs—whether fiery boleros, tender ballads, or jazz standards—largely compartmentalized. Introduced to the Aliens by singer Francisco “Frank” Zavala, a native-Nicaraguan Elvis impersonator, Chepito realized that if he was going to contribute rhythmically to this profitable group, he would need to do so in conjunction with Oscar Calderon, the band’s established timekeeper. Chepito bought timbales and congas, strengthening his skill set and firming up the Aliens’ Latino sound palate.

A 1965 graduate of San Fran’s Mission High School, Mexico-born guitarist Carlos Santana was on the scene, but he hadn’t fully integrated Latino music into his bluesy repertoire. Chepito recalled that “when Santana came to see us play, he said, ‘We want to play Latin rock like you’re playing with the Aliens, and I want you to teach us how.’” Santana, already signed by CBS, had not yet broken ground on what became his namesake debut LP. Determining that he himself gave the Aliens “that special flavor,” Chepito departed, preferring to aid Carlos Santana in his metamorphosis from blues picker to rock icon. “I told the Aliens I was leaving, and they asked me ‘Where to?’ I told them, ‘You guys haven’t done anything, and so I’m going to go record with these gringos.’ [Santana] were all gringos! I had to work very hard with them; I was practicing with Santana eight hours a day to radically modify our style.” Following Chepito’s departure, the Aliens cut “Wild Love” b/w “Come Near,” a promising single for Wilt Chamberlain’s low-scoring Stilt Records. More British Invasion that Spanish Armada, the Aliens’ one-and-done recording career would be dwarfed by Chepito’s new endeavor.

Santana graced the Woodstock stage before his debut LP even hit the bins, rendering his namesake band’s furious brand of polyrhythmic rock all the more unbelievable to tuned-in attendees. In Michael Wadleigh’s famed Woodstock concert film, a young Chepito Areas appears composed and confident atop a bandstand full of face-making instrumentalists, all flying high through a poorly scheduled LSD trip. Propelled by the Woodstock phenomenon/fiasco, Chepito went instantly from braggart/virtuoso to celebrity of sorts, with Santana’s recording of Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” kicking down doors for rock Latinos. Santana’s popularity reached Nicaraguan shores in waves, as an entire nation rallied behind the success of their native son.

Back at Georgia Tech, Alfonso Lovo kept tabs on Santana during his own pursuit of a chemical engineering degree, and then during studies for his business degree at Louisiana State University. He also found time for excursions into music of his own, recording Terremoto Richter 6:25 - Managua in 1974 in response to the catastrophic earthquake that struck Nicaragua’s capital in December of 1972. Tracked at Knight Recording Studios in Metairie, Louisiana, the record featured Lovo on guitar, on bass, on piano, on mushrooms and on its stunning cover, as a guitar-wielding presence within a volcano’s eruptive column. Though it did allow Echoplexes and Minimoogs to wreak havoc briefly, Terremoto remains conventionally and distinctly ethnic. Fingerpicked acoustics and tender flute melodies are embellished only occasionally by short flourishes of wah, noodle, and psychedelia. Unaccredited locals filled in on the instruments Lovo wasn’t versed in, and a gospel choir reported that “It’s like an earthquake, baby.” The record’s penultimate track, “Managua Nicaragua Blues,” paid lyrical homage to seismic disaster in English with “I couldn’t believe my eyes / forty thousand people, buried alive,” while instrumentals including the Afro-jazzy title track and the ethereal “Hijack” serve as laconic salutes to monumental chapters in Lovo’s life, and in late Nicaraguan history.  

In early 1973, when Lovo caught wind of a Santana concert in nearby New Orleans, he decided to make the trek from Baton Rouge to visit the group, unsure whether Chepito would remember him. As it happened, Lovo and Chepito rekindled their musical partnership in routing Santana through Nicaragua, for a concert to benefit Managua quake victims in October of that year. After graduating from LSU in 1975, Lovo returned to Nicaragua to work for his family’s businesses, which at the time ranged from Massey Ferguson tractor dealerships, to a cattle ranch, to real estate. At the top of his agenda, though, was the making of a second album, with Nicaragua’s most accomplished players, including Jose “Chepito” Areas.

Alfonso Lovo’s next musical project would ultimately be named after an abiding symbol of Nicaraguan nationalism in the face of adversity. The Nicaraguan legend of La Gigantona (roughly, “The Giant Lady”) makes light of the country’s gradual 16th-century capitulation to Spain. In an annual street festival, a nine-foot wooden doll lady, representing the power and elegance of Spanish conquistadors, stands in for historical Nicaragua’s perverse affection for their exotic colonizers. The Nicaraguan commoners’ symbolic manipulation of the la Gigantona effigy instills a gratifying and fulfilling sense of control awarded to a liberated populace, a tradition that, in spirit, ushered through the 20th century the people’s intellectual superiority over opportunistic subjugators who brought language, culture, tyranny, and bloodshed to Central and South America.

At the time of the 1971 Lanica hijacking, Alfonso Lovo Cordero, father to our Alfonso Lovo, was in public service as Nicaragua’s Minister of Agriculture. By 1976, Lovo family business successes, compounded by the elder Lovo’s ascent into his role in Nicaragua’s triumvirate presidency, meant Minister Lovo’s son could handily afford ten times the equipment and recording time available to working-class fellow Nicaraguan musicians. Studio sessions were booked in the spring of 1976 at Producine, a state-of-the-art—and Somoza-owned—facility with capacity for video production, headed by Mexican filmmaker and producer Felipe Hernandez. Roman Cerpas had provided bass, percussion, and vocals for psychedlic Latin rock band Bwana’s self-titled 1972 debut for the CBS-affiliated Caytronics label; in 1976, he was a staff engineer at Producine: “Alfono is a crazy guy, but he’s the nice kind of crazy,” explained Cerpas, who engineered and played bass on 1976’s La Gigantona, envisioned as the second Alfonso Lovo long-player. Lovo, according to Cerpas, conceived the record free of concern for commercial potential:

So he comes up to me and tells me, ‘I have this little project going on, ‘Bomba de Neutron.’ [laughs] I say, ‘Son of a bitch! There is no market for that shit, there’s no way you can sell that or distribute it—you can’t even get any radio play for this on Nicaraguan airwaves.’ He responded to me, ‘But that’s my ‘Bomba de Neutron,’ I could give two shits—that’s what I have money for.’

Lovo’s “Bomba De Neutron” was among the most explicitly political songs slated for inclusion, a north-facing op-ed aimed at sitting U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the threat of nuclear conflagration. The neutron bomb, unlike the explosives of yesteryear, would kill people but leave buildings intact. “We were scared,” Lovo confessed regarding the warhead’s startling potential. “We were all hippies!” With its alien narrator and end theories, “Bomba” is not science fiction’s lone manifestation on La Gigantona. “Sinfonia Del Espacio en Do Menor” (“Space Symphony in D Minor”) was influenced in equal parts by 2001: A Space Odyessey and Brazillian pianist Eumir Deodato’s interpretation of the film’s galactic theme, “Also Sprach Zarasthustra.” Aimed at his former bandleader, “Los Conquistadores,” built upon a bassline borrowed from Chico Hamilton’s song of the same name, informed listeners that timbale man Chepito “came from León...Chepito, dropped Santana... Chepito, in his flying saucer...” Sandwiched between extraterrestrial opuses and political diatribes, “La Gigantona,” clocking in at just three minutes and free of thorny reference to either Carter or Santana, became “the single,” and thus, the album’s title track.  

Professor Roger Barrera, then director of Nicaragua’s National Symphony, was among the sessions’ best educated contributors; along with masterful saxophone and flute contributions, his reedy clarinet leads decorated the “Sinfonia del Espacio” midsection. Several players on La Gigantona had previously ridden Los Rockets, a surf-rock group propelled by the barrels of fuzz washing ashore in Latin America during the late ’60s. Los Rocket Rene Dominguez contributed erratic guitar work for Lovo that was described by Rockets bandleader, Bwana guitarist, and fellow Gigantona sessionista Ricardo Palma as “restless”; the Dominguez lines grafted in an anxious energy that, according to Palma, gave the Lovo troupe an excitable sound. “I was a little bit wild,” said Dominguez. “I didn’t know much at that time, but I was daring. Being crazy is how I was able to make it.”

The La Gigantona sessions would stretch out across an entire month. Many of the album’s final mixes resulted from relaxed jam sessions made possible by near-infinite studio time and Cerpas’ astute engineering work. Because most of the instruments played on the record—including guitars and assorted synthesizers—were Lovo’s own, it’s difficult to differentiate, by ear, which of four guitarists, two bass players, three percussionists, two men on keys played exactly what and when. During the liberal session work, La Gigantona was subjected to near-constant manipulation by Cerpas’ arsenal of production tools. “I experimented a lot with these guys,” reflected Cerpas. “I used a lot of effects; with the same tape recorder, I was able to produce delay.”

On the resulting album, waves of tape loop crash and break in quantities even dub visionary Lee “Scratch” Perry would’ve blushed at. Elsewhere, Cerpas’ orange phaser was applied via the mixing console to Areas’ percussive work on “Firebird Feathers”; Cerpas also wrung trumpeter Charlie Robb’s counter lead on “Sinfonia Del Espacio” through a wah pedal during post. Despite the mind-altering sounds that issue out of La Gigantona, its session men generally averred that psychedelic drugs weren’t much a piece of the equation. “If there was some drinking done before playing, a beer, or a joint, I can’t remember,” Dominguez demurred. “At that time, musicians usually smoked pot, because it was less harmful, you know. A drunkard is not the same person as someone who just smoked weed—with pot you concentrate more, you get a little more creative.” For his part, Chepito Areas claimed career sobriety: “I never saw drugs, not even with Santana. I was the only one that stayed away from drugs, because I had a stroke in 1970. When we played Woodstock, everybody was tripping on acid except for me. I used to smoke pot occasionally but.... My thing was women, I had two or three women every day. Venezuela and Colombia have the best selection, and I was all up in that terrain [laughs].”

But La Gigantona’s endless sessions did nothing to assure the album’s proper release. Chepito’s professional situation muddied things: Having released his self-titled solo debut in 1974, Areas was under contract to Epic, not to mention tethered by his existing understanding with Santana and Columbia Records. Still, La Gigantona’s final mix traveled north to Mexico for mastering by Orfeón Records, who then alley-ooped the reels to Bob Ross Music Services in Hollywood, who’d cut acetates. Pleased with the results, Alfonso Lovo felt certain that he’d be wasting his time and test pressings to ship discs to all corners of Latin America, only to elicit rejection letters from the low-flying labels that populated the region. He would not treat his completed masterwork like a common demo. A more insurmountable factor that denied commercial manufacture of La Gigantona was the increasingly violent nature of Alfonso Lovo’s homeland. By the late ’70s, Sandinistas were executing people, torching homes, and terrorizing businesses they considered either pro-American or overtly capitalist. They closed churches and confiscated newspapers, preventing the dissemination of the nation’s internal struggle. Avoiding harm’s way became the top priority for Lovo’s family in Managua, who at once represented wealth, America, and the reviled political power that rebels seemed intent on incapacitating. In short, Managua was an inhospitable place for any man, even a connected one, to privately press his own psychedelic jazz masterpiece to LP.

The wealthy left Nicaragua first, taking with them what money they could carry. When the Sandinistas’ overthrow of the sitting government began in earnest in the spring of 1979, Lovo loaded his family and possessions into two vehicles—a van and a limousine—and drove them north across the Nicaragua/Honduras border. Lovo’s parents left first, followed closely by Lovo’s wife and three-year-old daughter. Working farmland that straddled the two nations, Lovo spent several weeks herding cattle from rural Nicaragua into the Honduran marketplace, which afforded his family piecemeal passage into the United States. The reels containing Alfonso Lovo’s unreleased La Gigantona album would burn when Sandinistan forces torched Lovo family headquarters in downtown Managua. The acetate from which this release was gathered was hastily crammed into a box, transported to the U.S. mainland, and soon forgotten, as three generations of Lovos began a new life in the States, free at least from revolutionary tyranny.

Lovo would eventually settle in Florida to reeling in a career in the seafood business. By the mid-’80s, matters in Managua were intensifying; America’s support of the Contras—the Nicaraguan rebel groups working toward overthrow of the new socialist Sandinistan governance—began drawing intense criticism. While unified forces opposing the Sandinistas fought to regain control of Nicaragua and institute democracy, they were accused of the same injustices and cruel tactics employed by their enemies. The longer Lovo remained in American exile—watching the drama from the sidelines—the more intolerant and vocal he grew regarding the situation in Central America. While living upstate in Apalachicola, Florida, Lovo wrote and recorded “Freedom Fighters,” adding it to the dormant portion of his casual catalog. It wasn’t until Lovo was invited to Washington, D.C., and an event in support of the Nicaraguan Resistance that “Freedom Fighters” really took flight.

James Tyvoll, an operations research analyst at the Pentagon, heard Lovo singing an acoustic rendition of “Freedom Fighters” and was so moved by the song’s pro-Lech Walesa, anti-Castro message that he invited Lovo to a repeat performance for government officials. Amid intense media scrutiny for employing rebel-on-rebel chaos in Central America, the Reagan Administration cosigned Lovo’s protest song, occasionally using it at rallies and gatherings. Lovo’s climb from ousted underdog to political rock newcomer was documented by a Miami Herald article of August 9, 1987, which depicted Alfonso Lovo in military garb, holding a guitar in one hand and a prop machine gun in the other. On the morning of August 10, news vans flooded the Lovo compound in Miami, hoping to nab an evening news exclusive. In exchange for the scoop, Miami’s NBC-affiliated Newscenter 7 shot an impromptu music video for “Freedom Fighters,” featuring Lovo’s armed and camo-clad Wolf and the Pack band, plus choice stock footage from world hotspots of resistance. Such attentions flipped a switch for the enterprising transplant, who later claimed “When I play music, I’m happy. I can pick up my guitar and play, and I sweat out all the venom.” Other song-video combos followed hard on the heels of “Freedom Fighters,” including the tyrant toppling “Tiananmen Square” and “Don’t Fax Me,” a major gear shift into steamy lingerie and antiquated telephonic devices. His flirtation with fame, plus his chance at becoming a Republican Party rock darling did not draw him away from his day job as a distributor of fresh-caught seafood. Rather, his ocean-harvesting successes facilitated the production of the music that spilled out of him on land. Upon his discovery by Washington’s right wing, eager government officials even bounced song concepts off Alfonso, suggesting material that might further their agenda and mitigate their policies’ negative portrayal by the media. But Alfonso Lovo was unmoved: “‘Listen, I’m an artist,” he said. “I did these songs because I feel them. I’m not an ad-maker.’”

Even today, Alfonso Lovo is far less likely to report that violent forces consigned La Gigantona, his experiment in rebel Latin jazz, to 36 years of silence than he is to reiterate his tale of how a sitting U.S. president put Lovo music to his purposes. But as Lovo said, not long before chunks of the Berlin Wall began to hit the ground of a reunified Germany: “I am in reality. I do not think world politics are a joke, or a bore, and I do not believe in luck. The difference between us, you see, is that I have seen countries fall, and I don’t like it when I see that. Make that the end of your story, my friend.”

- Jon Kirby, July 2012