Cachao: Mambo Man
Among his many musician friends is fellow Cuban Bebo Valdes, with whom he recorded the Grammy-awarded El Arte del Sabor (Blute Note, 2001). "I met Bebo in 1939, when I was already a professional musician, recalled Cachao. "We never played together in Cuba, but we were fast friends. Bebo is a fine player and I followed his career closely, he said. "Some time in the 1960s, when he was living in Switzerland, we finally played together.
"Bebo and I have been friends for more than sixty yearsI am a month older than he is and I guess that makes me a bit wiser, he said with a smile.
One of the main figures in giving Cachao the recognition he deserves is actor and director Andy Garcia, who met the musician in San Francisco in the early 1990s and made the 1993 documentary Cachao ... Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos (Like His Rhythm There Is No Other), which traced Cachao's career from his years as a child prodigy who began playing at age nine to his invention of the mambo and the descarga (jam session). Garcia also produced (and played percussion) on Ahora Si! (Univision, 2004), which earned a Grammy Award that year.
"With Cachao, his humbleness and complete devotion to his art are great examples to me as an artist, Garcia said to The San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. "He's loose and easygoing, but very serious about his work. There are certainly a lot of people who know Cachao's music, but very few that are as obsessed and devoted as I am. I know what he is stylistically capable of, so that's why I'm a good producer for him.
Pianist Eddie Palmieri, who also worked with Cachao, says he considers him "a musical genius and good friend. His vast discography stands alone and must be appreciated by everyone in the music industry!
It is a treat to see and hear Cachao performing live these days with his Afro-Cuban All-Stars. In the summer of 2006, he was honored during the JVC Jazz Festival, and performed at Carnegie Hall. It was hard for members of the audience to sit still, as the music is intended for the dance floor. Cachao stood for most of the songs (there was a stool placed behind him, which he barely used) and was later gracious with fans and well-wishers who greeted him backstage after the performance.
One of the things that immediately catches your attention is the amazing energy he emanates from the stage, which he credits to the attention he pays to his health. " I lead a very peaceful lifeI neither smoke nor drink and I try to live quietly, without too many womenat my age, that is not really an issue, he said with a chuckle.
Cachao, Cuba Linda (EMI Latina, 2000)
Cachao, Master Sessions, Vol. 1-2 (Crescent Moon/Epic-Sony, 1995)
Cachao, Walpataca (Latin Jazz DescargaPt. I) (Tania, 1981)
Cachao, Cachao y su descarga '77, Vol. 1 (Salsoul, 1977)
Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente, From Havana to New York (Maype-Caney, 1961)
Cachao, Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature (Panart, 1957)
Jose Manuel Horna