Wednesday, 11 February 2009

News: Orlando 'Cachaito' Lopez - The "Heartbeat" of the Buena Vista Social Club

Orlando 'Cachaito' Lopez , the double bass player who has died aged 76, was known as "the heartbeat of the Buena Vista Social Club", and it was with this hugely successful group of Cuban musicians, assembled in 1996 by the UK label World Circuit, that he made his greatest international impact.

Their renown was greatly amplified by Wim Wenders's 1998 film Buena Vista Social Club, in which Cachaito appeared and was interviewed along with other members of the band.
Unlike many of the older members of the multi-generational outfit, however, Cachaito was not brought out of obscurity or retirement – he had been a playing as a professional continuously since the late 1940s.

"I never stopped playing, because it's important to keep my fingers supple," he said in an interview in 2001, just before the release of his one and only solo album Cachaito. It proved to be one of the most experimental of numerous Buena Vista Social Club spin-off albums, blending elements of DJ culture and Jamaican dub and the intuitive tumbaos (bass patterns) Cachaito had laid down with a small descarga (jam) band.

Pointedly, the record did not feature any indulgent bass solos.
A quiet, self-effacing man whose trademarks were his keen ability to listen to and interact with other players – in particular pianists – Cachaito was notable for his extraordinary versatility and open-mindedness, marrying technical precision with a keen sense of swing. His diverse professional experience over six decades meant that he was equally at home playing classical music, pop, Afro-Cuban jazz, and son (one of the building blocks of salsa).
"As a bass player, I think of myself as a colchon (a pillow) – always there, supporting everything that is happening, always there for the soloists to fall back on," he said.
Parallel with his performing career, he spent a total of 32 years passing on his skills to younger bass players at the Conservatorio Guillermo Tomas.

His nickname means "Little Cachao", a reference to his uncle, Israel "Cachao" Lopez. It was he who, along with Cachaito's father, Orestes Lopez, introduced the ritmo nuevo ("new rhythm") in the late 1930s, Africanising the somewhat staid danzon style (a European-derived formal salon dance) then popular. This development laid the foundations of the mambo, which swept the US in the early 1950s.

Born in Havana on February 2 1933 into a musical dynasty famous for the large number of bass players it had produced (allegedly more than 30), Cachaito was always surrounded by music. Encouraged to take up bass by his grandfather Pedro, he began to play at the age of nine in the danzon group of his aunt Coralia. He father regularly took him along to classical radio sessions as well as rehearsals with the danzon orchestra Arcano y sus Maravillas, with whom Orestes played cello and Israel played bass.

At 13, Cachaito composed his first piece, Isora Infantil, and formed his own charanga (flute and strings) group. By the time he was 17, he had taken over from his uncle as Arcano's bassist, and there followed stints in the cabaret orchestra Bamboo from 1952 and then with the big band Riverside from 1957. He also took a keen interest in American jazz, and would later cite Charlie Mingus and Ray Brown as key influences.

It was also from this time onwards that he began to meet many of the musicians who would subsequently join the Buena Vista Social Club – moonlighting with the likes of "Buena Vista Sister" Omara Portuondo at the famed Tropicana club, and the pianist Ruben Gonzalez.
During the 1960s, he played with various symphonic orquestras and also guested with the vocal group Los Zafiros, who included the guitarist Manuel Galban. In 1963, he formed the jazz quintet Grupo Los Amigos (with Tata Guines) and from 1967, he was part of Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, with trumpeter Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal and Chucho Valdes. The latter founded Afro-Cuban jazz luminaries Irakere in 1973, with whom Cachaito also worked regularly in subsequent decades.

Cachaito was unique in being the only musician to play on every track of every album in the Buena Vista Social Club series of albums, which began with the simultaneous 1997 release of Introducing Ruben Gonzalez, A Toda Cuba le Gusta and Buena Vista Social Club.
Together, these three seminal works kick-started a renaissance in Cuban music and have now sold around 10 million copies. Cachaito was also a regular fixture on the extensive tours with the groups of Ruben González and Ibrahim Ferrer in subsequent years.

It was a frail-looking Cachaito who plucked his double bass with Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club at London's Hammersmith Apollo last year – his last UK performance – although his playing was still full of verve. This was typical of Cachaito, who spent a lifetime pushing musical boundaries, and was at home in whatever style circumstances demanded of him.

Orlando Cachaito Lopez, who died on February 9, is survived by his wife Anaïs and two daughters.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Yo! Too Sexy 4 Radio...

Related Posts with Thumbnails