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In tandem with his multi-instrumentalist brother Orestes, bassist Israel "Cachao" López introduced to Cuban music the African rhythms that transformed the island's traditional danzón into what is now known as the mambo -- he also pioneered the descarga, the late-night jam sessions that revolutionized the sound and scope of Afro-Cuban pop and jazz. Born in Havana on September 14, 1918, just over a decade after Orestes, Cachao was the product of a sprawling, multi-generational musical family. At age eight he joined a local children's septet that featured singer Roberto Faz, himself a significant figure in Cuban musical history as well, and within a year teamed with another future legend, pianist Ignacio Villa (aka Bola de Nieve) to play his neighborhood movie theater in support of silent film presentations. As a teen, Cachao played contrabass with the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Habana, supporting guest conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Herbert von Karajan, and Heitor Villa-Lobos before joining Orestes in the Orquesta Arcaño y Sus Maravillas in 1937. By the time of Cachao's arrival, the orchestra was beginning to move away from its roots in French parlor music into a more African-inspired, rhythmic approach fusing the popular danzón style with syncopated percussion -- together the López brothers composed more than 3,000 danzónes for the group, most notably 1938's "Mambo," which introduced an atypically slow, heavy rhythm and galvanized Cuban music for generations to follow. By the time Cachao finally left the Orquesta Arcaño y Sus Maravillas in 1949, mambo was virtually synonymous with Cuban music as a whole. During the decade to follow, he played in a series of musical revues and orchestras, most notably enjoying an extended stint with bandleader José Fajardo. Over time Cachao began organizing descargas (i.e., "discharges"), informal, after-hours jam sessions that enabled the assembled musicians to experiment in a variety of styles and instrumental configurations. The improvisational, jazz-inspired approach proved so rewarding that in 1957 Cachao began recording the sessions, releasing to international acclaim the Pan Art LP Descargas en Miniature, featuring conguero legend Tata Güines. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 nevertheless spelled the demise of Havana's reign as a center of music and nightlife, and after leaving with the Ernesto Duarte Orchestra for a Spanish tour in 1962, Cachao did not return to his homeland, beginning an exile that extended for the remainder of his lifetime. He soon settled in New York City, playing in support of Tito Rodriguez and later Eddie Palmieri -- Cachao spent much of the 1970s in Las Vegas, headlining revues at the MGM, Sahara, and Tropicana hotels, before settling in Miami in 1978. Although the South Florida region was by now home to a growing community of Cuban refugees, Cachao spent the 1980s in relative obscurity, often playing quinceañeras and weddings to support himself while Latin music struggled to reclaim its onetime commercial prominence. Cachao's fortunes turned in 1989, when he befriended Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia, an avowed fan of the bassist's music. Garcia set about assembling a tribute concert held in Miami in the summer of 1992 -- the actor also financed the documentary portrait Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos, and with Miami Sound Machine co-founder Emilio Estefan, Jr. co-produced Cachao's acclaimed 1994 comeback LP, Master Sessions, Vol. 1, which earned a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance. As his international profile grew, Cachao experienced a creative resurgence that culminated with Mambo Mass, a daring liturgical work encompassing elements of Afro-Cuban music, opera, and classical traditions that premiered at Los Angeles' St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in 2000. That same year he issued the LP Cuba Linda, and toured the globe with a 15-member orchestra that at times featured Garcia on bongos. Cachao teamed with fellow Cuban maestros Bebo and Patato Valdés for 2003's El Arte del Sabor, winning a second Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album, and another Grammy followed for 2005's solo release ¡Ahora Si! In 2006 Cachao was honored at two Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts featuring the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra -- later that year, he also led a mambo all-star band at a JVC Jazz Festival program at Carnegie Hall. Cachao died from kidney failure in a Coral Gables, FL, hospital on March 22, 2008 -- he was 89 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
  2.   Descarga Cachao
  3.   Mambo
  4.   Bemba 'E Cuchara (Spoon Lips)
  5.   Malanga Amarilla by Julio Gutierrez
  6.   Cachao's Güiro
  7.   El Niño Toca El Tres by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  8.   Isora Club
  9.   El Alcalde (The Mayor)
  10.   En la Capital
  11.   Oye Mi Tres Montuno by Julio Gutierrez
  12.   Maria Elena
  13.   Descarga n 2
  14.   El Son No Ha Muerto (The Son Has Not Died)
  15.   Goza Mi Mambo Cubano
  16.   Redencion by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  17.   Al Fin Te Ví (I Finally Saw You)
  18.   Ano del 61
  19.   A Gozar con Mi Combo (To Rejoice With My Combo)
  20.   La Cayuga
  21.   Ko-Wo, Ko-Wo
  22.   Rumba Sabrosa
  23.   Lindo Yambú (Beautiful Yambú)
  24.   Dulce Güayaba by Cachao's Mambo All Stars
  25.   Controversia de Metales by Julio Gutierrez
  26.   Tanga, Pakatanga
  27.   A Gozar Timbero by Julio Gutierrez
  28.   Descarga Cha Cha
  29.   Lluvia, Viento y Caña (Rain, Wind and Reeds)
  30.   La Güajira by Cachao's Mambo All Stars
  31.   Camina Juan Pescao'
  32.   A Buscar Camarones
  33.   La Inconclusa
  34.   La Trompeta y la Flauta
  35.   El Cuarto De Tula
  36.   Trombon Criollo by Julio Gutierrez
  37.   Yambú
  38.   La Loma de Belen
  39.   Walpataca II
  40.   Oye Mis Tres Montunos
  41.   America Club
  42.   Cogele el Golpe
  43.   Los 11 Jovenes de La Antorcha
  44.   Sociedad Antonio Maceo
  45.   Dos Gardenias by Lucrecia
  46.   Alto Songo by Cachao's Mambo All Stars
  47.   El Manisero
  48.   Mi Guajira (My Country Girl)
  49.   La Negra Tomasa
  50.   Caballos Locos
  51.   Centro San Augustin
  52.   Son Las Dos, Rosa
  53.   Jimmy En El Trombon
  54.   Descarga Cándido
  55.   Buenaventura
  56.   África Viva
  57.   Siboney by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  58.   Marta by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  59.   La Bayamesa by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  60.   Juan Pescao by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  61.   Avance Juvenil by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  62.   Chanchullo
  63.   Como Mi Amigo No Hay Dos by Cachao's Mambo All Stars
  64.   Las Boinas de Cachao
  65.   Tania Express
  66.   Mi Melodia
  67.   Descarga Pa' Elegua
  68.   La Luz
  69.   Descarga Guajira
  70.   ¡Ahora Sí! (Now Yes!)
  71.   Es Diferente
  72.   Oyes Mis Tres Montuños
  73.   Pamparana
  74.   Marcheta
  75.   Cubanita
  76.   Bocachaby
  77.   Horchata
  78.   Adelante
  79.   El Senor Violin
  80.   Ni Por Manteca Ni Por Mantequilla
  81.   Cogele el Golpe by Julio Gutierrez
  82.   Descarga Mambo
  83.   Walfredo
  84.   La Leccion
  85.   The Three Beats (Danza)
  86.   Africa Suite: Eleggua con Cachao (Cod)
  87.   Africa Suite: Jane the Lame
  88.   The Mischievous Timbalero
  89.   Bailando Entre Espuma
  90.   Sorpresa de Flauta
  91.   Descarga Cubana by Julio Gutierrez
  92.   Descarga Mambo
  93.   Ahora Si!
  94.   El Principe Niño
  95.   Canta Contrabajo
  96.   Redencion
  97.   Descarga General
  98.   Avance Juvenil
  99.   Tunas Se Quemo
  100.   La Floresta
  101.   Tic-Tac-Toe
  102.   Siboney
  103.   El Bombin de Perucho
  104.   Panchitin
  105.   Cachao Te Pone a Bailar
  106.   Trombon Melancolico
  107.   El Fantasma del Combo (Descarga)
  108.   Loco
  109.   Cuarenta Que Son Uno
  110.   Tun Tun by Cachao's Mambo All Stars
  111.   Tata y Cuchin
  112.   Avance Jevenil
  113.   Sombras
  114.   Santa
  115.   Club Social de Marianao (Marianao Social Club)
  116.   Se Ve El Matancero
  117.   Follow Paquito If You Can
  118.   Sorpresa en Flauta by Cachao Y Su Ritmo Caliente
  119.   Oguere Mi China
  120.   Spoon Lips (Descarga/Jam Session)
  121.   A Buscar Camarones by Cachao Y Su Orquesta
  122.   Nando Padron
  123.   Arriba Cubano