Afghanistan Visits Tampa Bay.
The World Is A Very Small Place...
The World Is A Very Small Place…one steamy Tampa Bay evening, a group of Afghan IVLP visitors asked us to take them somewhere where they could relax and listen to some American jazz.
At the time, the late Buster Cooper and his trio were playing weekends at the old Garden Restaurant in St. Pete. Off we went, waved to Buster and the band, and settled in for a set. Once the group learned that Buster had toured Afghanistan with the Duke Ellington Orchestra on one of the US Department of State "Jazz Ambassadors" tours, they asked if they could meet him. Between sets, Buster joined the Afghans on the porch, and started telling them vividly about flying into Kabul on "Scary-ana Air"…in 1963! One of the visitors even remembered his grandmother talking about the Ellington Orchestra concert! Bassist John Lamb, another renowned Ellington alum from St. Pete, also dropped in to tell a few of his stories.
Buster introduced the group from the bandstand, wearing the Afghan scarf given to him by the visitors. He always mentioned this encounter whenever we saw him thereafter. His widow, Sarah, mentioned recently that she still cherishes that scarf (pictured above).
Over a number of years, a number of Afghan IVLP visitors and hundreds of others from around the world heard Buster's music, and listened to his stories about their countries. Buster truly enjoyed telling those stories, too.
Our Afghan friends felt welcomed here that night, and at ease among new friends. In the years since, we have heard them fondly remember their time with Buster, and the stories he told. Where else but in our welcoming Tampa Bay region…Sometimes a group from Afghanistan looks for some jazz and they end up sitting on a porch hearing stories about their country from a legendary trombonist, who played with Duke Ellington in Kabul for their grandparents…