Cuban music from the 1950s was beautiful and lush. Equally romantic, though, is the story behind a new album collecting that era's rare recordings. It's the story of two brothers, Harry and Morris Schrage, who fled from Poland to Cuba amidst the turmoil of the Nazi invasion in 1939, then fell in love with the music.
At the time, Cuba was like "paradise," according to Morris, who cites the beautiful beaches and music as enticing attributes of their home in Cuba's Casa Marina, where musical trios — bass, guitar, percussion — sang three-part harmonies.
"The atmosphere was like walking into a fine nightclub," Morris Schrage tells NPR's Rebecca Roberts. "And the trios would stroll along the booths, and would play for a dollar per song."
Using state-of the-art recording equipment that Harry Schrage bought in Miami, Morris and his brother went on to record dozens of songs by Trio Melodicos, Trio Zamora and other Cuban groups. Harry died before he could release the songs, but Morris resurrected the old tapes on a CD called The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina.
Jimmy Maslon, co-executive producer of the project, inherited the original recordings from Harry's widow.
"The [sound] quality was incredible," Maslon says. "They recorded directly to a stereo tape, so it wasn't like it was recorded to multi-tracks and then mixed onto another tape with a lot of hiss, which is why it was so clear. As far as mastering, we had to do very little to it at all."
Maslon notes that the recordings on The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina were never released.
"It was definitely like finding a time capsule," he says. "It was a rare treat."