Cachao's Mambo All-Stars
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Cachao's Mambo All-Stars

New York City, New York, United States | MAJOR

New York City, New York, United States | MAJOR
Band Latin World


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The Grammy-winning bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez died in Coral Gables, Florida in March 2008, almost 90-years old. A maestro of legendary status on the world stage and ultimately considered one of the greatest Afro-Cuban musicians of all time, he had made his home in the United States for the past four decades. Coming from a family of classical musicians, he had formal conservatory training and held a seat in the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra for 30 years, performing under the direction of all of the legendary international conductors of the time – beginning at age 10! American Masters pays tribute to the Father of Mambo in the series’ bilingual film, Cachao: Uno Más premiering Monday, September 20, 2010 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film is produced, narrated and illuminated by the actor Andy Garcia, a close friend and ardent fan, who helped re-establish Cachao’s career in the ‘90s. Among the film’s many treats is Garcia playing the bongos with Cachao.

Currently in its 24th season, American Masters is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

“Cachao’s stature is peerless,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters, a seven-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series. “There are few who have come close to his legacy. What American Masters does best is to capture an artist’s creative process. It’s extraordinary to see Cachao’s impeccable improvisations on stage and in the studio.” The heart of the film is a sold-out 2005 concert at Bimbo’s 365 Club, a famous San Francisco nightclub. Shot with nine cameras, bathed in warm lighting, with pitch-perfect sound recording and mixing, Cachao’s infectious warmth and musical genius is palpable. Woven throughout the film is Cachao reminiscing about his remarkable life over lunch with Garcia and saxophonist Ray Santos. Other voices, including Cachao’s daughter Elena, his driver, and fellow musicians such as percussionist and historian John Santos and Gloria and Emilio Estefan, shed light on his near nine-decade contribution to world music. As Garcia says, “You can put [Cachao] right next to Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Charlie Parker. That’s the lexicon of the names that he’s up there with.”

“I think we would be a less rich musical country if we were not to really embrace and applaud and enjoy the music Cachao has contributed to the world and most definitely to America,” notes Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan.

Cachao: Uno Más takes viewers from his start as a child prodigy in Cuba to his personal struggles in Vegas to his triumph as a world-class composer. A classical musician by day, he always had a double life at night, playing the Havana clubs and dance halls with his brother Orestes. Together, they revolutionized the heart of Cuban music – first in the late 1930s, literally inventing the mambo from the stately Cuban danzón – and later in the 1950s, at highly electric descargas cubanas – Cuban jam sessions – their spontaneous improvisations and innovations laid the groundwork for contemporary Latin jazz and salsa, rock ‘n roll and rhythm and blues. Around this time, Cachao wrote “Chanchullo” which contained the signature hook appropriated in Tito Puente’s classic hit “Oye Como Va,” later made popular in Carlos Santana’s hit crossover cover.

Cachao became an exile shortly after Fidel Castro came into power in 1962. He relocated to New York and played with leading Latin bands. As the ‘70s wore on, his life hit a sour note in Vegas, where he headlined casinos and battled his growing gambling habit.

Eventually, he settled in Miami as a forgotten artist, playing for tips at local venues. He slowly slipped into obscurity in the ‘80s until Garcia helped revive an appreciation of Cachao and his music and reinvigorated his career in the ‘90s. Their musical collaboration cul - PBS

Israel Cachao López, the Cuban bassist and composer who was a pioneer of the mambo, died on Saturday in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 89 and lived in Coral Gables.

Cachao playing at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York in 2006.
The cause was complications resulting from kidney failure, said Nelson Albareda, whose company, Eventus, was his manager.

Cachao, as he was universally known, transformed the rhythm of Cuban music when he and his brother, the pianist and cellist Orestes López, extended and accelerated the final section of the stately Cuban danzón into the mambo. “My brother and I would say to each other, ‘Mambea, mambea ahí,’ which meant to add swing to that part,” he said in a 2006 interview with The Miami Herald. The springy mambo bass lines Cachao created in the late 1930’s — simultaneously driving and playful — became a foundation of modern Cuban music, of the salsa that grew out of it, and also of Latin-influenced rock ’n’ roll and rhythm-and-blues. For much of the 20th century, Cachao’s innovations set the world dancing.

In the late 1950’s, he brought another breakthrough to Latin music with descargas: late-night Havana jam sessions that merged Afro-Cuban rhythms, Cuban songs and the convolutions of jazz. The mixture of propulsion and exploration in those recordings has influenced salsa and jazz musicians ever since.

Cachao’s 80-year performing career dated back to the silent movie era. Born in Havana in 1918, he came from a family of musicians and studied classical music. He began his public career at 8 years old, playing bongos in a children’s group. A year later, he had stood on a crate to play bass for the Cuban pianist and singer, Bola de Nieve, accompanying silent films. At 13, he became the bassist of the Havana Philharmonic, and he performed with the orchestra from 1930 to 1960. But he also played Havana clubs with his brother Orestes, working with a noted Cuban dance orchestra, Arcaño y Sus Maravillas, and with their own groups.

“His phrasing and his attack and how he functioned in the orchestra was unique to Cachao,” the actor Andy Garcia, who reinvigorated Cachao’s career by producing albums and documentaries in the 1990’s, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “He always played bass with the bow in his hand. He would go back and forth. And as he was strumming with his fingers, he always had the bow in his hand and the bow would strike the bass percussively.”

It has been estimated that the López brothers wrote thousands of songs. They worked in established Cuban forms, like the elegant charanga and danzón, while testing new ideas. In 1937, they came up with the first mambo. It was a failure. “It was too fast for dancing, and we were six months without any work,” Cachao told The Miami Herald in 1995. “People didn’t like it. When we slowed it down, then it became danceable.”

The original mambos were for the string ensembles that played dances at the time. But big-band leaders picked up the rhythm and applied it to more aggressive brass arrangements — notably Dámaso Pérez Prado, who popularized the mambo worldwide. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the mambo filled dance floors at New York City’s famous Palladium club and nationwide. In Havana, Cachao gathered top Cuban musicians for jam sessions or descargas, and a handful of recordings by Cachao y Su Ritmo Caliente — beginning with an after-midnight studio session in Havana in 1957 — became cornerstones of salsa.

Cachao left Cuba in 1962. He spent two years in Spain, then came to New York City, where he performed with mambo bands led by Tito Rodríguez, José Fajardo and Eddie Palmieri. For decades, he worked almost entirely as a sideman. He moved to Las Vegas — where he lived until he became, he said, a compulsive gambler — and then to Miami. Cachao made only three albums as a leader between 1970 and 1990. In Miami, he played at clubs, bar mitzvahs and airport hotel lounges, although he hadn’t been forgotten. Mr. Garcia said, quoting the - The New York Times

Published: October 4, 1999

Cachao Lopez, the legendary Cuban bassist and band leader, came to New York last week, leading a nine-member group at a not-nearly-packed S.O.B.'s on Wednesday and Thursday. The band included two singers, two percussionists, a small horn section, and the Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos playing sweeping Stephane Grappelli-like phrases, and the players were still in the process of getting comfortable with one another and the music.

Wednesday night's first set never caught fire the way Mr. Lopez's sets can. But it was capacious, reflecting a number of the facets of his career. He played some danzones, light, courtly, salon music. Much of the rest, regardless of what form it started in -- spare choral chants against percussion, or rich ensemble arrangements -- ended up in a descarga, the jazz-influenced Cuban jam session that Mr. Lopez, now 81, pioneered in the 1950's. The music swung from heavily European to heavily African, and in several sudden, short moments of excitement during passages of collective improvising, the band's possibilities were well implied.

Mr. Lopez's playing, inevitably, has aged; over the last half-decade his hands have lost some of their authoritative strength. But there remains a great craftiness in the way he has created a discursive language out of small, disparate parts.

He never simply sustains a groove. In tune after tune the band, which was powered by the pianist Alfredo Valdes and the trombonist Jimmy Bosch, simmered down for Mr. Lopez's improvisations, and he'd play a few single notes, followed by a few chords, followed by a few bowed notes, working into a crescendo of slapping the strings and the body of the bass. The shape of his sound kept changing, and he went about constructing his solos with patience and freshness. - The New York Times


1957 Cuban Jam Sessions in MiniaturePanart
1958 El Gran Cachao Kubaney
1958 El Ritmo de Cachao Kubaney
1958 Jam Session With Feeling May
1958 Jam Session with Feeling Maype
1959 Cuban Music in Jam Session Bonita
1961 Descargas Maype
1961 Cuban Jam Session, Vol. 2 Panart
1961 Descarga [Maype] May
1976 Dos Salsoul
1977 Cachao Big World
1977 Descarga 77 Salsoul
1978 Cachao y su Descarga '77, Vol. 1 Sony
1985 Latin Jazz Descarga!!!, Pt. 1 PTO
1986 Teacher of Teachers Tania
1994 Descargas y Mambo May
1995 La Leyenda, Vol. 1 Kubaney
1995 Leyenda, Vol. 2 Kubaney
1995 Lumbre Hacienda
1997 Descargando International Music
1997 Descarga Cubana [Astro] Astro
2000 Cuba Linda EMI International
2000 Superdanzones Egrem
2000 Cuban Descarga Cubacan
2000 Descargando con Cachao Orfeon
2002 Descarga [Classic Music]
2004 Ahori Si! Univision
2004 Monte Adentro Blue Moon



Cachao’s Mambo All-Stars, carry on the legacy of the Grammy-winning bassist and composer Israel “Cachao” Lopez, the legendary “father of the mambo”. Cachao’s Mambo All-Stars’ energetic “descargas”, are improvised, Latin jam sessions of which Cachao was both inventor and master of. They conjure images of Havana’s heyday, and remember the man who transformed Cuban music. Cachao’s Mambo All-Stars feature an unmatched ensemble of Afro-Cuban artists, many whom played with Cachao throughout his unprecedented career. The All-Stars are Federico Brito, violin; Ramses Colón, bass; Anthony Columbie, singer; Adalberto Lara, trumpet; Mark Gregory, trombone; Daniel Palacio, singer; Enrique Fernandez, saxophone; Raymer Olalde, Timbal and Jorge L. Sosa , piano.

Israel “Cachao” López is considered by many to be the creator of mambo music. Cachao, who passed away at the age of 89 on March 22, 2008, spent 44 years living in Cuba, where he revolutionized the Cuban music scene. He eventually made it to the U.S. and moved to Miami, where he spent almost a decade with little recognition by American music fans. That changed in 1992, when Andy Garcia – a longtime fan of Cachao’s music - made a documentary about Cachao titled Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos - a title which honors Cachao's uniqueness as a musician and innovator. In March of 1995, Cachao earned a Grammy Award for Master Sessions, Vol. 1, his successful album of descargas that came out of his collaboration with Garcia. As Garcia’s fondness for Cachao continued, he followed up Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos with a second documentary, Cachao: Una Mas, a tribute to the life and music of his friend.