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Orlando "Cachaíto" López

Wednesday, Sep 19 2001
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Havana native Orlando "Cachaíto" López has bass in his blood. He stems from an incredible lineage of musicians, with an estimated 30 bassists in the family tree -- including his father Orestes and his Uncle "Cachao," who both helped pioneer the African-derived mambo and descarga forms more than a half-century ago. In the past few years, the 67-year-old Cachaíto has risen to international acclaim as well, anchoring the hugely popular Buena Vista Social Club and spinoff combos led by Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Omara Portuondo. But the release of his eponymous CD debut as composer and bandleader this past spring sets him apart from his compadres.

Exploring both contemporary and classic Cuban song styles, López fills the album with exciting rhythms, colorful instrumentation, and stunning arrangements. Unlike the often nostalgic approach of venerable Buena Vista frontmen González and Ferrer, López's work crackles with a modern edge. Performing originals as well as tunes by his Uncle Cachao and Arsenio Rodríguez (the inspiration for Marc Ribot's hip Los Cubanos Postizos), López offers a powerful mix of polyrhythmic percussion, punchy horns, evocative strings, and a few slick splashes of Hammond B-3 organ and turntable scratch mastery. Laid-back grooves buoy lithe jazz solos with a solid backbone of no-nonsense world funk, fueled in part by the contributions of former James Brown saxophonist and arranger Pee Wee Ellis, who makes a special appearance in López's world-class ensemble at this week's concert.

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Sam Prestianni

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