Cachao's gonna make you dance!

by Israel "Cachao" López

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“The bass is an instrument that in one word describes itself. We’re the depth of the music.” Cachao
Israel López Valdés (1918, Belén, Havana – 2008, Coral Gables, Florida),
better known as “Cachao”, was a multi-talented genius composer and
musician, master of the double bass, modernizer of the danzón, co-creatorof the mambo and innovator of the descarga (Latin jam session).
Though Cachao fell into undeserved obscurity during the salsa boom of
the 70s and 80s, he managed to record several excellent albums under
the wing of musicologist/producer René López for the Mericana/Salsoul
label in the late 1970s, before slipping back into anonymity. However, by
the early 1990s, he was back again in the studio, being ‘rediscovered’
by the actor Andy García (with Emilio and Gloria Estefan), producing
the two fabulous Master Sessions CDs. Following this, thankfully his
work was brought back to the limelight to a larger audience through the
documentary “Cachao… Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos”, with the result thathe finally earned well-deserved recognition, awards and many accolades.
Some of his most well-known compositions are “Mambo” (co-written
with his brother Orestes “Macho”) and “Chanchullo” (which was used
as the basis for Tito Puente’s “Oye Cómo Va”). Cachao’s descargas in
turn influenced a whole generation of New York (mostly Puerto Rican)
musicians in the years immediately following the Anti-Castro US embargo
to form all-star combos and record their own descargas. One could argue
that these recordings helped form the basis of what was to be later called
“salsa” by radio DJs and record labels the world over.

“It was a spur-of-the moment thing. I believe the improvisation allowed
us to investigate our thoughts and souls with respect to the music.” Cachao

We mean it when we say Cachao’s gonna make you dance! Though some
of the maestro’s recordings are more for the head and the heart, plenty
are for partying. This collection hand-picks the best numbers for dancing
and going wild, selected from his late 50s Havana sessions for Panart,
plus recordings made as a sideman for Bebo Valdés, Chico O’Farrill,
Generoso “Tojo” Jiménez, Pedro “Peruchín” Justíz, and the early 60s
New York sides done with the Joe Cain Orchestra. Joining Cachao on the
Havana sessions were the likes of Tata Güines, Richard Egües, Alejandro
“El Negro” Vivar, Armando “Chocolate” Armenteros, Los Papines, and
Orestes “Macho” López. In New York under the direction of Joe Cain,
Cachao played alongside jazz luminaries like Jerome Richardson, Clark
Terry, Jimmy Nottingham, Frank Anderson and Herbie Lovelle, as well
as José “Buyú” Mangual, Antonio “Chocolate” Díaz Mena, and Marcelino Valdés, forging a soul-jazz meets Cuban sound that would become more prevalent a few years later and be called Latin Boogaloo.

“We all invented the descarga. All of us who met in the small hours of
the night to improvise. And improvisation takes you to jazz, [but we
played] jazz in a Cuban way. We were Cuban musicians, playing Cuban
music with the spirit of jazz.” Tata Güines

Full of tropical flavors, funky beats, and compelling instrumental solos,
the unique and exciting thing about Cachao’s descargas is that they
allow the music to breathe without the distraction of vocals for the most
part. This is diverse music played by the pros for their own pleasure.
Some popular romantic Latin dance music is merely a pre-fabricated
bed for the singer and chorus, where the lyrics take precedence over the
lyricism of the music. Not so in these miniature gems of improvisation
recorded just before and after the Cuban Revolution in what seems
like a bygone era. What makes these recordings unique is they were
made by a group of friends after hours, when Cachao was done with
his day job at the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and the nightly hotel
and club engagements with Arcaño y sus Maravillas and others. So the
stiffness and formality, the professionalism and commercial concerns
are jettisoned in favor of a more playful and personal approach, making
these jams as fresh today as they were more than a half-century ago.

Pablo “Bongohead” Yglesias


released April 16, 2016

Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente, Cachao y su Conjunto, Cachao y su Orquesta



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