Monday, March 24, 2008

Descargas Cachao


it loosely translates from Spanglish into Discharges

and that describes the explosive jam sessions combining Afro-Cuban and western dance styles that have mixed into a fiery blend that has influenced salsa and latin jazz musicians for decades...

One of the great acknowledged fathers of this style was bassist extraordinaire Cachao, who has died this past weekend in Miami of kidney failure at age 89...

Here he is at a performance at the White House this past October...

Israel "Cachao" Lopez, was a child raised in a large musical community in Havana, whose early aptitude on the bass earned him a seat in the Havana Philarmonic at only age 13...and he kept that prime seat with the symphony for nearly 30 years before leaving for America.

Together with his brother Orestes "Macho" Lopez, he helped bring "Mambo" music to the cultural fore, did so first from the late 1930's into the 50's with his classic Cuban combos, and then in the 1960's via his Orchestra that played the New York Ballrooms...

His career took him through many phases including a stint in Las Vegas in the 1970's where he nearly lost everything in the casinos between gigs, onto Miami in the 1980's where he slowly rebuilt his career in his elder years after he was finally recognized for his contributions to Latin music. Fellow Cuban emigre' and actor Andy Garcia produced a documentary about the musician Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos ("With A Rhythm Like No Other") in 1993 that helped revitalize his faltering career. Garcia, who also played in Cachao's band and recorded with him, wrote a fitting obit for the musician and I will reprint it verbatim below:

(Like his Rhythm there is No other)

On this morning March 22, 2008, the legendary musician, composer, arranger and cultural icon Israel Lopez better known to all of his admirers as CACHAO! passed away.

He leaves with us a legacy of extraordinary trendsetting music, and an unequaled example of humanity, that was a gift to all of us, who had the good fortune and honor to experience.

He had a religious dedication to his art form that began at the age of twelve debuting with the Havana Philharmonic playing acoustic Contra Bass while standing on a wooden box. He created the Mambo in 1939 along with his closest collaborator, his brother Orestes.

That composition entitled "Danzon Mambo" laid the foundation for the Mambo craze that swept the world. Later in the 1950's he brought together the greatest musicians from the Havana music scene and again revolutionized Cuban music with his now legendary Descargas, "Jam Sessions".

Cachao is "La Mata", "The Tree", from this tree rooted in the deepest traditions of Cuban music everything in modern Cuban music, music known to many as Salsa stems.

His passing marks the end of an era. An era that brought to us some of the most genial talents in Cuban music history, music that has influenced music for nearly a century. Talents such as, Ernesto Lecouna, Beny More, Ignacio PiƱero, to name a few. And the magnificent Bebo Valdes, one of Cachao's compatriots and collaborator. Who is still spreading the traditions of our music around the world with great influence and popularity.

I had the great privilege of collaborating with Cachao as his producer and band member since 1990.

Together we recorded four records. Master Sessions Vol. I and II, which earned Cachao his first Grammy, and "Cuba Linda' which again brought him Grammy and Latin Grammy Nominations. Also directing a Documentary on his life entitled "Cachao, Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos" set around the now legendary concert in 1990. And the film "Cachao, Ahora Si" which chronicles his creative process during our last Grammy and Latin Grammy award winning CD/DVD. And most recently another tribute documentary entitled “Cachao, Uno Mas” documenting an honor bestowed upon him from San Francisco State University and concert that followed.

After a lifetime of listening to Cachao's music and eighteen years of Concerts and records together. I consider our collaboration and friendship one of most important accomplishments of my life. Cachao is our musical father. He is revered by all who have come in contact with him and his music and is referred to simply as EL MAESTRO! He has been honored around the world and has his rightful place in the Smithsonian Institute.

What is one to do know? How does one move forward in the face of such a monumental loss? In the only way that Cachao would want us to. To honor him with the maximum effort to carry out what was most important to him. Which is continue and never abandon the traditions of our music and culture. This is what Cachao was all about and the example that set for us will continue to inspire generations to come.

Maestro, your music has accompanied me all my life and will continue to do so until we meet again. You have been my teacher, and you took me in like a son. So I will continue to rejoice with your music and carry our traditions wherever I go, in your honor.

Andy Garcia
Actor /Director/Producer
And proud member of the Cachao Orchestra
Los Angeles, Ca

I'm not gonna bullsh*t ya that I'm an expert on his irressitible Cuban rhythms, but here's links to some mp3 tracks to familiarize yourself, as well as some more thorough obits that appeared in the NY & LA Times and McClatchy Newspapers (below)...

Cachao y Su Combo - Descarga Cuba
1957 era recordings available currently on the 2007 Musart digital release "Descargas Y Montuno" also known previously as "Cachao Y Su Descarga - Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature"

Cachao - Descarga Cachao
available on "Cachao Master Sessions Vol 1"

In other sad music news:

The husband of Corinne Bailey Rae, 31 year old musician Jason Rae was found dead of a heroin overdose in Leeds UK on Saturday. He appears in this video for his band the Haggis Horns...

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