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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 70sand 80s, he managed to record several excellent albums under the wing ofmusicologist/producer René López for the Mericana/Salsoul label in the late1970s, before slipping back into anonymity. However, by the early 1990s, he was back again in the studio, being ‘rediscovered’ by the actorAndy García (with Emilio and Gloria Estefan), producing the two fabulous MasterSessions 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 finallyearned well-deserved recognition, awards and many accolades.
Some of his most well-known compositions are “Mambo” (co-written with hisbrother Orestes “Macho”) and “Chanchullo” (which was used as the basis for TitoPuente’s “Oye Cómo Va”). Cachao’s descargas in turn influenced a whole generation of New York (mostly Puerto Rican) musiciansin the years immediately following the Anti-Castro US embargo to form all-starcombos and record their own descargas. One could argue that these recordingshelped 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 toinvestigate 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 themaestro’s recordings are more for the head and the heart, plenty are forpartying. This collection hand-picks the best numbers for dancing and goingwild, selected from his late 50s Havana sessions for Panart, plus recordingsmade 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 JoeCain Orchestra. Joining Cachao on the Havana sessions were the likes of TataGüines, Richard Egües, Alejandro “El Negro” Vivar, Armando “Chocolate”Armenteros, Los Papines, and Orestes “Macho” López. In New York under thedirection 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 wouldbecome 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 thenight to improvise. And improvisation takes you to jazz, [but we played] jazzin a Cuban way. We were Cuban musicians, playing Cuban music with the spirit ofjazz.” -Tata Güines.

Full of tropical flavors, funky beats, and compelling instrumental solos, theunique and exciting thing about Cachao’s descargas is that they allow the musicto breathe without the distraction of vocals for the most part. This is diverse music played by the pros for their own pleasure. Somepopular romantic Latin dance music is merely a pre-fabricated bed for thesinger and chorus, where the lyrics take precedence over the lyricism of the music. Not so in these miniature gems of improvisation recordedjust 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 jobat the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and the nightly hotel and club engagementswith Arcaño y sus Maravillas and others. So the stiffness and formality, theprofessionalism and commercial concerns are jettisoned in favor of a more playful and personal approach, making thesejams 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.