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Background informationCachao_header_cell_0_1_0
Birth nameCachao_header_cell_0_2_0 Israel López ValdésCachao_cell_0_2_1
BornCachao_header_cell_0_3_0 (1918-09-14)September 14, 1918

Habana Vieja, La Habana, CubaCachao_cell_0_3_1

DiedCachao_header_cell_0_4_0 March 22, 2008(2008-03-22) (aged 89)

Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.Cachao_cell_0_4_1

GenresCachao_header_cell_0_5_0 Danzón, mambo, descargaCachao_cell_0_5_1
Occupation(s)Cachao_header_cell_0_6_0 Musician, composer, bandleaderCachao_cell_0_6_1
InstrumentsCachao_header_cell_0_7_0 Double bassCachao_cell_0_7_1
Years activeCachao_header_cell_0_8_0 1926–2008Cachao_cell_0_8_1
LabelsCachao_header_cell_0_9_0 Panart, Kubaney, Maype, Salsoul, EMICachao_cell_0_9_1
Associated actsCachao_header_cell_0_10_0 Orestes López, Arcaño y sus Maravillas, Andy GarcíaCachao_cell_0_10_1
WebsiteCachao_header_cell_0_11_0 Cachao_cell_0_11_1

Israel López Valdés (September 14, 1918 – March 22, 2008), better known as Cachao (/kəˈtʃaʊ/ kə-CHOW), was a Cuban double bassist and composer. Cachao_sentence_0

Cachao is widely known as the co-creator of the mambo and a master of the descarga (improvised jam sessions). Cachao_sentence_1

Throughout his career he also performed and recorded in a variety of music styles ranging from classical music to salsa. Cachao_sentence_2

An exile in the United States since the 1960s, he only achieved international fame following a career revival in the 1990s. Cachao_sentence_3

Born into a family of musicians in Havana, Cachao and his older brother Orestes were the driving force behind one of Cuba's most prolific charangas, Arcaño y sus Maravillas. Cachao_sentence_4

As members of the Maravillas, Cachao and Orestes pioneered a new form of ballroom music derived from the danzón, the danzón-mambo, which subsequently developed into an international genre, mambo. Cachao_sentence_5

In the 1950s, Cachao became famous for popularizing improvised jam sessions known as descargas. Cachao_sentence_6

He emigrated to Spain in 1962, and moved to the United States in 1963, starting a career as a session and live musician for a variety of bands in New York during the rise of boogaloo, and later, salsa. Cachao_sentence_7

In the 1970s, Cachao fell into obscurity after moving to Las Vegas and later Miami, releasing albums sporadically as a leader. Cachao_sentence_8

In the 1990s, he was re-discovered by actor Andy García, who brought him back to the forefront of the Latin music scene with the release of a documentary and several albums. Cachao_sentence_9

Before his death in 2008, Cachao had earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and several Grammy Awards. Cachao_sentence_10

He is ranked number 24 on Bass Player magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time". Cachao_sentence_11

Biography Cachao_section_0

Early life and career Cachao_section_1

Cachao was born on September 14, 1918, in Belén, a neighbourhood in Old Havana, into a family of musicians, many of them bassists—around 40 or more in his extended family. Cachao_sentence_12

He was born and raised in the same house in which José Martí was born. Cachao_sentence_13

His nickname and stage name Cachao was given to him by his grandfather Aurelio López, from the Spanish word "cachondeo" (banter). Cachao_sentence_14

Cachao began his musical career in 1926, taught by his father, Pedro López, and his older brother, multi-instrumentalist Orestes López, nicknamed "Macho". Cachao_sentence_15

As an 8-year-old bongo player, he joined a children's son cubano septet directed by a 14-year old Roberto Faz. Cachao_sentence_16

A year later, already on double bass, he provided music for silent movies in his neighborhood theater, in the company of a pianist who would become a true superstar, cabaret performer Ignacio Villa, known as Bola de Nieve. Cachao_sentence_17

Work at the cinema ended in 1930 when talkies began to be shown in Cuba. Cachao_sentence_18

His parents made sure he was classically trained, first at home and then at a conservatory. Cachao_sentence_19

In his early teens he was already playing contrabass with the Orquesta Filarmónica de La Habana (of which Orestes was a founding member), under the baton of guest conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Igor Stravinsky and Heitor Villa-Lobos. Cachao_sentence_20

He played with the orchestra from 1930 to 1960. Cachao_sentence_21

Las Maravillas and the origin of mambo Cachao_section_2

Cachao's and Orestes' rise to fame came with the charanga Arcaño y sus Maravillas, founded by flautist Antonio Arcaño. Cachao_sentence_22

As members of the group they composed literally thousands of danzones together and were a major influence on Cuban music from the 1930s to the 1950s. Cachao_sentence_23

They introduced the nuevo ritmo ("new rhythm") in the late 1930s, which transformed the danzón by introducing a syncopated final section open to the improvisation of the players and dancers. Cachao_sentence_24

This section, known as the mambo, was named after the danzón "Mambo", co-written by Cachao and Orestes, which—according to Cachao—referred to the word for "story or tale" used by Kongos and Lucumís in Cuba. Cachao_sentence_25

In the words of Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, it was the "mother of all mambos". Cachao_sentence_26

In their vast repertoire were also compositions by other songwriters such as "Isora Club", written by their sister Coralia López, as well as arrangements of standards such as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and songs by George Gershwin and Jelly Roll Morton. Cachao_sentence_27

The Maravillas, or La Radiofónica as they were popularly known, became a radio sensation in the mid-1940s, having their own program and expanding their lineup to 14 musicians in 1944. Cachao_sentence_28

The need to constantly write music sheets for each member of the band was one of the reasons why Cachao left the group in 1949. Cachao_sentence_29

He then joined Blanquita Theater orchestra, whose fifty members played in Broadway-style revues. Cachao_sentence_30

The Maravillas went on for another ten years. Cachao_sentence_31

Their swan song, released in 1957, was "Chanchullo", composed by Cachao himself, who organized the session. Cachao_sentence_32

The song became a hit in the United States as the basis for Tito Puente's "Oye cómo va", although Puente denied copying Cachao's composition. Cachao_sentence_33

Descargas at Panart studios Cachao_section_3

One day in 1957, Cachao gathered a group of musicians in the early hours of the morning (from 4 to 9 AM), energized from playing gigs at Havana's popular nightclubs, to jam in front of the mics of a recording studio. Cachao_sentence_34

The resulting descargas, known to music aficionados worldwide as Cuban jam sessions, revolutionized Afro-Cuban popular music. Cachao_sentence_35

Under Cachao's direction, these masters improvised freely in the manner of jazz, but their vocabulary was Cuba's popular music. Cachao_sentence_36

These descargas were released in 1957 by the Panart label under the title Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature, which followed the longer descargas by Julio Gutiérrez (Cuban Jam Sessions Vol. 1 and 2), released also by Panart. Cachao_sentence_37

They have been named by many critics as one of the most essential Cuban records of the 1950s, including being cited by the book 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Cachao_sentence_38

Between 1957 and 1959 he recorded many more descargas at Panart studios. Cachao_sentence_39

These recordings were released in the following years by Kubaney and Maype, and re-released by EGREM. Cachao_sentence_40

He also recorded descargas with Tojo's orchestra and Chico O'Farrill's All-Stars Cubano amongst other ensembles. Cachao_sentence_41

He worked alongside Peruchín, Tata Güines and Alejandro "El Negro" Vivar. Cachao_sentence_42

Exile Cachao_section_4

In 1958, at the height of the Cuban Revolution, Cachao's wife left Cuba for New Jersey, and in 1962, three years into Fidel Castro's communist regime, Cachao crossed the Atlantic on a ship along with 13 other musicians. Cachao_sentence_43

After 21 days, they reached the Canary Islands. Cachao_sentence_44

Cachao settled in Madrid, where he joined Ernesto Duarte as a member of his orchestra, Orquesta Sabor Cubano. Cachao_sentence_45

In Madrid, Cachao also performed with other artists such as Pérez Prado. Cachao_sentence_46

One year later, in 1963, Cachao reunited with his wife in New York, where he played with Charlie Palmieri, José Fajardo, Tito Rodríguez, Tito Puente and Machito, among others. Cachao_sentence_47

Cachao was one of the most in-demand bassists in New York, along with Alfonso "El Panameño" Joseph and Bobby "Big Daddy" Rodríguez. Cachao_sentence_48

Joseph and Cachao substituted for each other over a span of five years, performing at nightclubs and venues such as the Palladium Ballroom, the Roseland, the Birdland, Havana San Juan and Havana Madrid. Cachao_sentence_49

While Cachao was performing with Machito's orchestra in New York, Joseph was recording and performing with Cuban conga player Cándido Camero. Cachao_sentence_50

When Joseph left Cándido's band to work with Charlie Rodríguez and Johnny Pacheco, it was Cachao who took his place in Cándido's band. Cachao_sentence_51

After a decade in New York, Cachao moved to Las Vegas, where he played in Pupi Campo's band at the casinos and as a pianist at a piano bar. Cachao_sentence_52

In 1977, Cachao recorded with drummers Louis Bellson and Walfredo de los Reyes the experimental album Ecué, where he played piano on the title track. Cachao_sentence_53

Most significantly, he was brought back into the recording studio by musicologist René López to record two albums as a leader (Cachao y su Descarga 77 and Dos), his first in 15 years. Cachao_sentence_54

These LPs constituted a sort of "rediscovery" of Cachao for the incipient salsa scene in New York. Cachao_sentence_55

Nonetheless, Cachao returned to Las Vegas and in 1980 moved to Miami, where he played at events such as baptisms, comuniones, quinceañeras and weddings. Cachao_sentence_56

Despite his lower profile, Cachao recorded several albums with pianist Paquito Hechevarría for the Tania record label, including one as a leader in 1986, Maestro de Maestros: Cachao y su Descarga '86. Cachao_sentence_57

Late career Cachao_section_5

In 1989, actor Andy García contacted Cachao at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, where he was playing with John Santos and Carlos Santana. Cachao_sentence_58

García asked him if he would be interested in a tribute concert and documentary film being made in his honor, which Cachao proudly accepted. Cachao_sentence_59

The concert took place in Miami on July 31, 1992, and it was the centerpiece of the four-day 16 mm shoot that yielded Cachao... como su ritmo no hay dos, García's film, released the following year. Cachao_sentence_60

The success of the concert and film spurred the recording of two new albums, Master Sessions Vol. 1 (1994) and Vol. 2 (1995), as well as international tours. Cachao_sentence_61

This led to a second "rediscovery" of Cachao, as well as numerous accolades, including several Grammy and Hall of Fame awards. Cachao_sentence_62

As a leader, Cachao recorded two more albums to critical acclaim, Cuba linda (2000) and Ahora sí (2004). Cachao_sentence_63

In 2000, he recorded with Bebo Valdés for Fernando Trueba's concert film Calle 54 and for the album El arte del sabor. Cachao_sentence_64

He made his last studio recordings as a sideman for Gloria Estefan on 90 Millas (2007). Cachao_sentence_65

His last concert took place in Miami in September 2007 and was released as a posthumous live album, The Last Mambo, by Sony Music in 2011. Cachao_sentence_66

In February 2008, Cachao signed a contract with Penguin Books to write a book about his life, which never materialized due to his passing one month later. Cachao_sentence_67

At the time, Cachao was preparing to record another album and had eight concerts in Europe scheduled for 2008. Cachao_sentence_68

Death Cachao_section_6

Cachao died on the morning of March 22, 2008, in Coral Gables, Florida, at the age of 89. Cachao_sentence_69

He died from complications resulting from kidney failure. Cachao_sentence_70

On March 26 and 27, a public open-casket funeral, led by Alberto Cutié, was held at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Miami. Cachao_sentence_71

On March 27, he was buried at Vista Memorial Gardens in Miami Lakes. Cachao_sentence_72

Family Cachao_section_7

Cachao was part of a large musical family which at one time had "35 bassists" across multiple generations, although many played other instruments as well. Cachao_sentence_73

Cachao's older brother, Orestes, played 12 instruments, including bass, cello, harp and piano, and Cachao himself played bass, piano, bongos, tres and trumpet. Cachao_sentence_74

His sister Coralia was also a bassist and bandleader, but is perhaps best known as a songwriter for her danzón "Isora Club", a standard of the genre. Cachao_sentence_75

Orestes' son, Orlando, was nicknamed Cachaíto after his uncle Cachao. Cachao_sentence_76

He was a prolific bassist as well and one of the mainstays of the famed Buena Vista Social Club group, named after one of Cachao's danzones, "Social Club Buenavista". Cachao_sentence_77

In 2001, Cachaíto recorded his only album as a leader, featuring two songs composed by Cachao. Cachao_sentence_78

Cachao was married to Ester Buenaventura from 1946 until her death in May 2005. Cachao_sentence_79

They were survived by their only daughter, María Elena. Cachao_sentence_80

Awards and recognition Cachao_section_8

Honors Cachao_section_9

In 1994, Cachao was inducted into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame. Cachao_sentence_81

He was a recipient of a 1995 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the highest honor in the folk and traditional arts in the United States. Cachao_sentence_82

In 1999, Cachao was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. Cachao_sentence_83

He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award a year later. Cachao_sentence_84

In 2003, Cachao was awarded the 2,219th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cachao_sentence_85

On June 11, 2006, he was honored by Union City, New Jersey with a star on the Walk of Fame at Union City's Celia Cruz Park. Cachao_sentence_86

On November 7, 2006, Cachao received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music during Berklee's Latin Culture Celebration. Cachao_sentence_87

At the time of his death, the University of New Haven had also decided to award an Honorary Doctorate to Cachao. Cachao_sentence_88

Grammy Awards Cachao_section_10

Cachao has won several Grammy Awards for both his own work and his contributions on albums by Latin music stars, including Gloria Estefan. Cachao_sentence_89

In 1994, he won a Grammy for Master Sessions Volume 1. Cachao_sentence_90

In 2003, he won a Latin Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album together with Bebo Valdés and Carlos "Patato" Valdés for El arte del sabor. Cachao_sentence_91

Cachao won a further Grammy in 2005 for his album ¡Ahora Sí!. Cachao_sentence_92

In 2012, his posthumous live album The Last Mambo won the Grammy Award in the Best Tropical Latin album category. Cachao_sentence_93

Tributes Cachao_section_11

Cachao has received numerous tributes in the form of dedicated concerts, compositions and recordings from other musicians. Cachao_sentence_94

The first notable tribute concert to Cachao was organized by musicologist René López and held at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City in 1976. Cachao_sentence_95

Although the event gathered many of the major exponents of Afro-Cuban music in the country, it received little attention from the press. Cachao_sentence_96

In 1987, a tribute concert was held at the Hunter College auditorium in New York City in honor of Cachao. Cachao_sentence_97

The ensemble was directed by pianist Charlie Palmieri and featured Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, Orlando "Puntilla" Ríos, Pupi Legarreta, Tito Puente, as well as Cachao himself. Cachao_sentence_98

In 1993, the Puerto Rican salsa supergroup Descarga Boricua recorded the track "Homenaje a Cachao" for the album ¡Esta sí va!, while pianist Hilario Durán recorded a different piece with the same name for his 2001 album Havana Remembered. Cachao_sentence_99

Bebo Valdés composed and recorded the piece "Cachao, creador del mambo" in 2004, and re-recorded a segment of the song for the film Chico & Rita in 2010. Cachao_sentence_100

In November 2005, a tribute performance dedicated to Cachao took place during the 6th Annual Latin Grammy Awards. Cachao_sentence_101

It was presented by Andy García and featured Bebo Valdés, Generoso Jiménez, Arturo Sandoval, Johnny Pacheco, as well Cachao himself. Cachao_sentence_102

In February 2008, Paquito D'Rivera premiered Conversaciones con Cachao, a symphonic suite dedicated to Cachao, during the Festival de Música de Canarias (Canary Islands Music Festival). Cachao_sentence_103

The orchestra was directed by Pablo Zinger. Cachao_sentence_104

A month after Cachao's death, a second documentary film by Andy García was released; Cachao: Uno más premiered in April 2008 at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Cachao_sentence_105

The inspiration for Cachao: Uno más, made by San Francisco State University's DOC Film Institute, came largely from a concert Cachao played at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco in 2005. Cachao_sentence_106

The film's premiere was followed by a tribute concert with the John Santos Band at Yoshi's Jazz Club SF. Cachao_sentence_107

After Cachao's death, his backing band continued to perform as Cachao's Mambo All-Stars and they recorded an album in his honour, Como siempre. Cachao_sentence_108

On March 15, 2019, a concert titled Mambo: 100 Years of the Master - Cachao was held in Miami, 100 years after Cachao's birth. Cachao_sentence_109

It featured 97-year-old Cándido Camero and 89-year-old Juanito Márquez, among others. Cachao_sentence_110

The latter arranged some of the songs Cachao was preparing to record in 2008 at the time of his passing, which were performed for the first time 11 years later at the concert. Cachao_sentence_111

Discography Cachao_section_12

As leader Cachao_section_13

Filmography Cachao_section_14


  • Cachao... como su ritmo no hay dos (1993)Cachao_item_0_0
  • Cachao: Uno más (2008)Cachao_item_0_1

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