Andy Garcia has directed another tribute to his longtime musical idol, Israel “Cachao” Lopez. The pioneering Cuban bassist and mambo originator, first profiled by Garcia in his 1993 documentary “Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos,” is the subject of a six-minute film produced for Martell’s new Caractère cognac brand. The bongo-playing actor told Billboard he plans to record an album of his own songs with members of the late Cuban great’s band.
“The only thing he asked for in life was for the youth to maintain the traditions,” Garcia says of Cachao in the short, titled “Mi Maestro.” “And that’s what our relationship was about, maintaining the traditions of Cuban music. And that’s what I’m dedicated to today.”
Cachao is credited with inventing the mambo rhythm together with his brother Orestes Lopez. For decades, Cachao lived quietly in exile in Miami, performing in restaurants and at weddings. Garcia, whose own family left Cuba for South Florida, was often in the audience.
“He took me in not only as a musical protegé but as an extended member of his family,” says Garcia. He brought the aging Cuban musician out of obscurity in Miami with his documentary and, with the help of Emilio Estefan, a breakthrough album, "Master Sessions Vol. 1." Garcia produced a total of four Cachao albums before the latter's death in 2008, at age 89.
The Martell short, called “Mi Maestro,” shows the actor in younger days working in the studio with the Cuban great. In new footage created for the project, he dances along with a group of professional mambo dancers during a jam on the beach.
Garcia is the first “Icon of Caractère” named by Martell in a program for the Hispanic market to promote the launch of the cognac, described by the company as representing “the true man of character.” The actor directed and narrates the short, which he presented at a screening event in Los Angeles last week (Feb. 11).
In addition to appearing periodically with the Cineson Allstars, Garcia has been writing songs and is “threatening to record an album with my original music” performed by the Cuban band, he told Billboard. He recently collaborated with trumpet player Arturo Sandoval on the score for “At Middleton,” the January release he stars in with Vera Farmiga.
Garcia revealed another music-related project he has on the back burner: a movie about Chano Pozo, the Afro-Cuban conga player who collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie to create some of the most important music in the history of Latin Jazz. At age 33, the Havana-born Pozo was killed by a bookie in a bar in Harlem during a fight over a drug deal.
“He was a very influential musician [and] he came to such a tragic end],” said Garcia. “He had a very dramatic life. But those ideas are very hard to finance. You go to Paramount you say ‘I want to do a movie about Chano Pozo.' They go, 'Chano Po-Zo? Was he a clown?'”
Garcia’s current independent project, a movie about Ernest Hemingway and his boat captain Gregorio Fuentes, is to begin filming this summer. Jon Voight has signed on for the role of Hemingway, replacing the previously-announced Sir Anthony Hopkins, Garcia confirmed.
Meanwhile, Garcia will be heard as the voice of Eduardo, the king of the bluebirds, in the upcoming “Rio 2.” And “Rob the Mob,” The torn-from-the-headlines Mafia drama in which Garcia stars as the bearded Big Al, is scheduled to premiere the closing night of the Miami International Film Festival in March.