Cachao

Ahora Si! (Univision)

Is it fair that mambo pioneer bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez is 85 years old and still producing beautiful music, when the rest of us are just sitting around doing nothing? Well, no, but as long as he keeps making records like this, it just doesn't matter. All the information you need about his life is right here in the deep Cuban grooves.

Cachao rarely solos on Ahora -- his strength is as a bandleader and arranger. "Mambo Cambió de Swing" is pretty much what you'd expect -- a retelling of mambo music through a big band lens, but más calientethan it sounds. "Aurora" is 83 seconds of lovely crooning by Alzaro Galarraga and then another few minutes of jazzy guitar work from Nelson Gonzalez.

But the real gems here are the curveballs: the 18-minute "Guajira Clásica" starts with sexy orchestral violin/saxophone interplay and progresses to a blowing session; "No Tienes Por Que Llorar" is Cuban highlife juju jazz; and collaborator Andy García gets to flex his song-writing chops on "Una Descarga a Cachao," which is what funk would sound like in heaven. This much brilliance? It's not fair. -- Matt Cibula

 
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