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Commentary: Musical Cigars

9 May 2012

What is it about cigars and music? Or, to be more precise, what is it about cigar makers and making music?

Foremost among the musicians in the cigar world undoubtedly is Avo Uvezian. The pianist, performer, and composer has an eponymous line of top-flight cigars created with master blender Hendrik Kelner and Davidoff. Avo also has created a unique aura with his wide-brimmed hats, white suits, and association with “Strangers In the Night.” Lucky is the smoker who’s able to attend an event where it’s possible to light up an Avo and hear the octogenarian entertain at the keyboard.

Next up is an ex-musician who has been turning out top cigars for years, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. A one-time jazz drummer, he gave up the stage to join his cigar making father in Miami and launched his La Gloria Cubana line that became synonymous with the boom of the ’90s. The former jazz man is still involved with family, as he and his children create cigars that make smokers whistle a happy tune.

Then there’s Pete Johnson. Not only does he share names with an immortal boogie woogie pianist, the younger Pete was a bass player on the Los Angeles music scene before teaming with Don Pepin Garcia to set cigardom on its ear with Tatuaje. Just think how much different today’s cigar world would be if he had kept picking instead of blending.

Charlie Toraño played guitar as a kid and still gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about the pleasure he takes from the instrument. At a recent Toraño event, Charlie spent his down time chatting with the guitarist who was performing at the shop. He seemed to enjoy it as much as talking about his cigars, though no amount of coaxing could get Charlie up on stage.

Rocky Patel, on the other hand, can usually be lured on stage with a simple request, whether it’s to sit in on drums with the Doobie Brothers or tap the bongos at Burn, his club in Naples, Florida. The peripatetic cigar maestro has played percussion since he was a youngster and still loves doing it.

Not all the musical cigar connections involve big names, either. A blender I’ve never met, Alberto J. Medina, writes on the site for his Pio Cigar Co. about selling his bass guitar to get the money to start rolling in Miami’s Little Havana.

And these are just the ones of which that come to mind. There are undoubtedly many others. After all, creativity flows through the cigar industry just as it does through the worlds of music, painting, and other imaginative pursuits. Creating a cigar from many disparate parts and melding a complex operation into a harmonious whole doesn’t seem so much different from conducting a symphony.

So, the next time you light up, listen for—as well as taste—the harmony of the leaf.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

4 Responses to “Commentary: Musical Cigars”

  1. Francisi Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    This is interesting. Never thought of it before. Additionally, I think Paul Garmirian plays classical guitar.

  2. Chris S Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    My earliest memories of cigar smoking involve sitting around my friend's outdoor fireplace while he played his beautiful Martin guitar. It impacted me so much that I learned how to play a few years later.

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