Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved
by relationship between famous jazz trumpeter and Cuban conga drummer,
this Faustian, supernatural drama is set against background of
Afro-Cuban/Latin music/dance in New York. Features the most dynamic
music/dance stars in Latin Jazz/Salsa. Major book - music publishers
interested in screenplay novelization - financing music score.
Prado arrives in New York bringing with him, an enchanted African drum
after being incarcerated in a Carribean prison for 25 years. He meets
Dizzy, a famous jazz trumpeter and becomes a successful conguero,
dancer, composer and Latin jazz innovater. However, in so doing, he
must kill to serve the demon of the drum. Detective Jack Ochsman is
assigned to investigate the murders, and becomes friendly with Chano.
Returning to his own religious roots and the supernatural, mystic
aspects of Judiasm, Ochsman nearly loses his own soul in endeavoring
to solve the ritual murders.
New York - 2008. Chano Prado arrives in New York with the enchanted drum, taken from a village in Cuba where it had been brought by his great-grandfather, an African slave, many years before. Soon after his arrival, Chano attracts attention of Dizzy Carrol, a famous jazz trumpeter. Their meeting will later lead to a fruitful and successful musical association.
On his way to audition as a congra drummer at Mambo City, a club in Spanish Harlem, Chano meets a strikingly beautiful black woman dressed in bright African garb when he rescues her from being mugged by two hoods. He learns that both he and Gwanda have the same Yoruban ancestry. She invites him to her performance at the Apollo Theatre later that evening where she is featured with a visiting African dance troupe.
At Mambo City, Chano spearheads the driving rhythm section of the Latino band playing there. In the middle of a dancer’s showcase, he leaps off the bandstand and cuts in on a star couple executing a series of dazzling dance steps. Nora is a beautiful Puerto Rican girl who Chano finally relinquishes to her jealous boyfriend, Palito who continues to smolder even after being temporarily placated by Chano’s friend, Mongo.
Later, Chano arrives at the Apollo for the late show to see Gwanda perform an incredibly frenetic African dance number. Afterwards, he meets her father, Mr. Mbuto with whom he establishes an immediate rapport, partly because of their kindred Yoruban background as well as Chano’s heroism in saving Gwanda earlier. Chano escorts Gwanda back to her hotel, then returns to his place, a squalid tenement in N.Y.’s Latin barrio.
While Chano sleeps, a ghostly ectoplasm begins to emaanate from his conga drum. It hovers over him momentarily, then slightly and insidiously permeates his being. Chano wakens suddenly, his will surrendered to the demonic malevolence now inside him. He leaves the room and makes his way stealthily thru the streets to Gwanda’s hotel, entering her room from the fire escape; then, he stabs her to death. Unbenownst to Chano, the murder has been witnessed in silent horror by a meek, neurotic hotel clerk, Justin, hidden in the closet, peeping on Gwanda. The demon of the drum, having taken its human sacrifice, is appeased for the moment and Chano returns to his room and the world of mortal existence.
The next day Chano and Nora meet by chance in a record store and spend the rest of the day and night together. Enraptured with one another, they become lovers. Nora returns to her apartment the following day where a violent scene ensues with Palito. No longer able to tolerate his jealousy and physical brutality, Nora orders him out of the apartment at knifepoint.
Meanwhile, Chano’s association with Dizzy Carrol inspires a fever of musical creativity. Together, they compose “Manteca”, a unique Afro-Cuban jazz number and a recording session is planned.
The investigation of Gwanda’s mutrder is being conducted by Lt. Jack Ochsman, a Jewish detective from an uptown police precinct. A former jazz trombonist who has a great affinity for the Harlem scene, Ochsman often associates with jazz musicians, including Dizzy through whom he meets Chano.
A few days later it appears there may be a break in the case when Justin, the night clerk confesses to Gwanda’s murder. Suddenly, Justin chokes to death, eerily, as though strangled by a pair of invisible hands.
The night of the recording session, “Manteca” proves to be a musical triumph. The record producer plans an elaborate concert at Yankee Stadium featuring Chano and Dizzy in a celebration of Afro-Cuban music and dance. While Chano’s career seems spiraling upwards, the “demon” becomes more demanding. Chano excuses himself from the musicians leaving the recording studio and slips back inside the building to stalk a young woman working late in another office. He pursues her into a corner of the basement where once again, the demon inside him claims another victim.
As he struggles to appeas “Naningo”, the demon of the drum, Chano’s life becomes an intense inner conflict. He encounters Palito in a Harlem bar and beats him viciously over a cocaine deal. Finally, his will succumbs entirely to that of the demon. Chano kills Goldie (a cigarette girl at New Birdland, the club wherte Dizzy works) in a terrifying sequence inside The Statue Of Liberty after a tour group departs leaving them alone together.
Lt. Ochsman discovers a particular pattern in the murders; the corpses having been mutilated by the hearts being cut out with surgical precision. Researching rituals of primitive cults, Ochsman finds that human sacrifices were killed in ancient Yoruban rituals in a like manner as an offering to the gods. Knowing of Chano’s Yoruban background, Ochsman tries to find him, hoping that Chano will wprovide some additional clue to the murders.
At Nora’s apartment, the demon in Chano becomes more relentless in its craving for blood. However, Chano’s poignant love for the girl precipitates a fight against “Nanigo” who wants her as his next victim. Torn between his love for Nora and the formidible power of the demon, Chano pleads with Nora to get away while there is still time. But, too late as Chano’s visage begins to take on a demonic cast and he prepares to kill Nora.
Ochsman and Palito, who leads him to Nora’s apartment arrive at the pad and hear her screams. The two break in and attend to a shaken, but unharmed Nora, as Chano escapes out the window, wounded by Ochsman’s gunshot. Now. clear that Chano is the killer, Ochsman feels sure he will show up at the Yankee Stadium concert where he will be apprehended.
The night of the concert, Chano indeed appears on stage. With police surrounding the stadium, Ochsman decides it will be safer to collar Chano after the concert. Performing for the packed crowd, Chano experiences a culmination of musical and artistic fantasies. His conga drumming brings the crowd to its feet. Suddenly, Palito springs from the audience and leaps on stage with Nora in a stylized dance between the three of them, mesmerizing the audience. Nora, the foil between the two men, is still drawn to Chano in spite of what has happened. In a fury, Palito whips out a pistol and fires at Chano, but the weapon jams. The demon drum, now a protector to its human embodiment, emits a bolt of lightening which lashes like a dagger at Palito, burning him to ashes instantly.
At that moment, Mr. Mbuto dressed in full African tribal regalia and carrying a spear for his appearance with the dance group at the concert, realizes it was Chano who killed his daughter. He rushes onstage and thrusts his spear though Chano’s heart. As a hush falls over the crowd, the demon drum as though affirming its own immortality begins to rise in the air, at the same time, growing larger until it hovers over the stadium like some kind of malevolent blimp, all the while emanating an ominous, booming drum beat which permeates the air. Suddenly, the wrathful drum stops beating and hurls itself like a battering ram upon Mbuto, smashing the African repeatedly until he is beaten to a bloody pulp on stage. Then, quiescent and spent, the drum, returns to its normal size, falling to the stage and rolling over the side, seemingly unnoticed, while pandemonium breaks loose as the now hysterical crowd tries to escape the stadium.
Some weeks later, Nora, Dizzy and Ochsman meet for dinner to discuss the tragedy of Chano whose intensity and talent had deeply touched their lives. They say their goodbyes, each going separate ways but , promising to keep in touch.
Nora returns to Spanish Harlem and climbs the stairs to her flat. As she starts to open the door in the dimly lit hallway, a hand suddenly grabs her from behind and plunges a knife into her heart. A quick cut finds us in another apartment where the diety of the drum remains triumphant, enshrined by Dizzy, offering it a human heart, still pulsating on a tray while the sound of a primal drum beat booms louder and louder as the final credits roll.