Cuban bassist Israel Lopez 'Cachao' dies


MIAMI -- Cuban bass player Israel Lopez "Cachao," whose place in history as one of the creators of the mambo was forgotten literally for decades before he was rediscovered and launched to a broad audience in the 1990s, has died. He was 89.

Cachao was hospitalized in Coral Gables Hospital in Miami in mid-March. He died Saturday of kidney failure.

Perhaps no other Latin music bass player was as well known on a massive scale as Cachao, who after nearly 30 years in relatively obscure exile, was "rediscovered" by actor and musician Andy Garcia. Garcia would subsequently produce the albums "Master Sessions, Vol I" and "Vol. 2" as well as the documentary "CachaoSComo Su Ritmo No Hay Otro" ("CachaoSLike His Rhythm There Is No Other"), all of which catapulted Cachao to widespread recognition and fame. Praised by jazz musicians, Cuban music lovers and the mainstream in general, the affable Cachao was reborn as a star in his late '70s and made the most of it, turning out a series of impeccable recordings. Most recently, he collaborated on Gloria Estefan's album "90 Millas."

While Cachao's success can be traced to his virtuosity -- grounded in classical training -- as well as his inventive descargas, or jam sessions, and his soulful compositions. But he is best remembered as the man who invented the mambo. The claim can be traced back to the 1930s in Cuba, when Lopez and his brother Orestes -- prolific danzon composers -- revolutionized Cuban music with a composition they titled "Danzon Mambo." The piece laid the groundwork for what would become the mambo revolution, carried out by Damaso Perez Prado. While Perez Prado left Cuba for Mexico and later the United States, popularizing the dance craze as he went along, Cachao remained in Cuba until 1962.

After a brief stay in Spain, he came to the U.S., where he worked in relative obscurity, until discovered by Garcia and subsequently winning both Grammy and Latin Grammy awards.

Cachao would record solo albums with Emilio Estefan's Crescent Moon Records, and later, with Univision Records. Most recently, he had been signed on by label/management Eventus.

Cachao never returned to his native Cuba. His brother Orestes died there in 1991.