Israel 'Cachao' Lopez, R.I.P.
March 23, 2008 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Bassist, bandleader and mambo pioneer Israel 'Cachao' Lopez has died.
posted by flapjax at midnite (11 comments total)
That link is really interesting, flapjax, thanks. Explains in detail just how important he was:

The danzón, the descendant of European-derived court dances and Creole innovations, emerged in the late 19th century as a courtship dance for elite society...But by the late 1930s Cachao and Orestes were convinced the form needed modernizing, and they began to add improvisational elements to the danzón, which later spawned the birth of the mambo. At first known as nuevo ritmo (new rhythm), the López brothers’ innovation introduced an additional section that contained repetitive elements at the heart of Cuba’s popular dance music, the son.

The crucial ostinato structure of the son allowed the musicians to open things up, providing a steady vamp at the end of the danzón for improvisation, usually over the dominant chord. The result not only led to a more musically dynamic style, it compelled dancers to react by changing their steps to match the new rhythm. “This was the era of the syncopated beat,” Cachao remembers. “We musicians began experimenting with that, and the dancers reacted instantly!” In time, we would know this new dance as the cha-cha-cha, but meanwhile, the future of the danzón was sealed, and the word “mambo” was born.

I just discovered Cachao last week via one of the Andy Garcia-produced Master Sessions collections. I don't know how I missed him before now, but the stuff is awesome.

"I'm a musician. That's what I do," Cachao told the Miami Herald. "I never had delusions of grandeur. I never expected to be famous or anything like that. I just played, and whatever happened happened."

posted by mediareport at 6:52 AM on March 23, 2008

What mediareport said, and,

“Mambo was something I created with my brother. Later, Perez Prado began calling himself ‘the king of mambo,’ but I never had any hard feelings about this, because if it weren’t for him the mambo would not have been internationally recognized,” he said.

Read more here.

Amazing man.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:00 AM on March 23, 2008


The curse of Buena Vista! It is a bad time to be an octogenarian or nanogenarian Cuban musician of world renown.
posted by asok at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2008


Oh, man, I so dig Cachao. I guess I know what I'm spinning next. If you don't have any Cachao in your music collection, I can't recommend the Master Sessions highly enough. It looks like they're out of print, but you can buy MP3s from Amazon or AACs from iTunes Store. There are also several full tracks to listen to at He really was the man.
posted by mumkin at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2008

posted by mike3k at 11:31 AM on March 23, 2008

posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 1:22 PM on March 23, 2008

Thanks for the great links, flapjax and Marie Mon Dieu. He was a true master.

posted by languagehat at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2008


Fortunately, we still have his nephew, Cachaito.
posted by Wolof at 5:26 PM on March 23, 2008

posted by fourcheesemac at 6:21 AM on March 24, 2008

I remember, back in the '70's, being told by my Cuban friends that he was the best of the best, and picking up his albums in the record store that was downstairs in the subway at Times Square (it had the best Latin selection I knew). They were right - there was no one like him.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:28 AM on March 24, 2008

great story
posted by at 11:24 AM on March 24, 2008

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