Seven new compositions by Cuban great Israel López — the influential Cuban bassist best known as Cachao — will be performed by an all-star band at a tribute concert in Miami, Billboard has learned.
The unreleased songs written by Cachao were intended for an album he was working on when he passed away in March 2008, says Nelson Albareda, ceo of concert promoter Loud and Live, which is organizing the March 15 concert at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center.
Albareda was the executive producer of Cachao’s final album, The Last Mambo, the recording made at a 2007 concert that won posthumous Grammy and Latin Grammy awards for the famed Cuban musician. After that concert, Cachao had begun working on the new album.
“I had asked him what do you want to do now?” recalls Albareda. “He said, ‘Well, I want to do whatever I want.’” He began working on the new music in a Miami studio.
Cachao wrote the seven tracks before he became ill; his health quickly declined in the month before his death. The new material will be featured on an album to be released later this year after having their debut at the Miami concert, Albareda says.
The March 15 concert, titled “Cachao: The Master of Mambo,” will convene musicians from several generations who played with the mambo innovator and Cuban jam session pioneer. Special guests are to include the legendary 97-year-old percussionist Candido Camero, a contemporary of Cachao who is one of the few surviving musicians of their generation.
A special appearance is also expected from guitarist, composer and arranger Juanito Marquéz, 89, who performed and recorded with Cachao when Marquéz moved from his native Holguin to Havana as a young musician, and later in Miami. Marquéz the author of “Arimaté Pa’ca” and other classics, became a key player in Miami’s Latin music scene starting in the 1970s, as the arranger on many albums including Gloria Estefan’s “Mi Tierra.” He also did arrangements for the unreleased songs that will debut at the upcoming Cachao tribute concert.
“Cachao was incredibly creative and he modernized Cuban music,” Marquéz says, speaking in Spanish about his friend and collaborator during a recent call from his home in Miami. “He changed the way that the bass was played. Traditionally, the bass in Cuban music was played in a very simple way, until Cachao started playing notes that weren’t intended for the bass,” Marquéz continues. “His contribution was the concept of the bass as a rhythm instrument, and he made that style of playing something characteristic of Cuban music. There was not another musician who did that before him. Of that I am sure.”
Renowned salsa violinist Alfredo de la Fe, who was featured on The Last Mambo, and Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos, a Latin jazz luminary who was the musical director for that concert and album, are also among the players scheduled to appear. More artists are to be announced in the coming weeks.
The concert will feature a program of big band danzones before breaking into a jam session, and will include Cachao standards as well as the new material, whose sound Albareda describes as “classic Cachao.”
“This is really a big party for Cachao,” the producer says of the concert. “For those who are into Cuban music, this is as good as it gets.”