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The clock inside the storied bakery on Calle Ocho indicates it's the middle of the day, but Luis Bofill is searching for a jolt of caffeine amid the patrons' friendly chatter and the clacking of plates and utensils. "It was a long [night], so it's like the start of the morning for me," he says, plopping his hearty frame on a chair. "It was like four o'clock in the morning and I was still up there."
A childish gleam in his eyes, Bofill recounts the excitement and rush he felt during an impromptu jam session with a host of guests. "Luis Enrique was there. Manolín [El Médico de la Salsa] was there," he says. "What a fucking party." Entertaining via traditional boleros, son, and guaracha until the wee hours, and delivering dexterous improvisations in the dark, has been old habit for the Cuban crooner since touching down in Miami 13 years ago.
With his versions of standards like "Bésame Mucho" and "Guantanamera," Bofill demonstrates a profound vocal ability, improvising often and adding a touch of R&B to the songs. "I love those boleros of yesteryear, like 'Te Dí La Vida Entera' ['I Gave You My Entire Life'] that Rolando Lasairre used to sing," he says. "But I was turned on by all kinds of music."
Bofill first found glory in the Eighties, when he won the top prize on Todo El Mundo Canta, a popular Cuban television show à la American Idol. He toured the world before defecting to Germany. "There was a big salsa movement there; everybody was fascinated by the rhythms and sensuality of the lyrics," he says. Despite finding it an eye-opening experience, it was nothing like what he found when he arrived in Miami. "This is Cuba, man," Bofill says. "Just take a look around us. It's everywhere."
Before heading for the restaurant's exit, Bofill places another order. "Let me get some mamey juice," he says before turning and announcing to nobody in particular: "It's time to start putting a little flavor in the party.
Luis Bofill performs Friday, July 27 (and every Friday), at Hoy Como Ayer, 2212 SW Eighth St., Miami. Doors open at 9:00 p.m., and the show begins at midnight. Call 305-541-2631, or visit www.hoycomoayer.net.