Simply put, without being hyperbolic, the most important musician in Latin music in the 20th century was a Cuban bass player named Israel "Cachao" Lopez, who single-handedly (with a little help from his brother) invented the rhythm we now call the "mambo". How did he do this? When? Who was he and where did he come from? ARE YOU NUTS? I'VE GOT SO MUCH CRAP TO DEAL WITH AND NOW I'M SUPPOSED TO WRITE AN INTELLIGIBLE POST ABOUT MUSIC HISTORY? Click on this Wikipedia article if Cachao isn't a name you know and dig the history created by this spectacular figure. The world of the Mambo and its inventor is one that--if you're not hep to it--is well worth investing a little time learning about. Also, the music rocks.
For many years Cachao--who left Cuba in the early sixties and moved around the US from New York, to Vegas to Florida--was a legend among Cuban's and musicians of a certain stripe. But he was more likely to be found playing "casuals:--i.e. weddings and bar mitzvahs--than to be found in the concert hall. I don't believe he felt any bitterness about this--he was born to play music and that's what he filled his life doing. But the respect level changed when, in the early 90's, he had the good fortune to meet a young movie star of Cuban heritage who'd always admired his music; that would be our friend Andy Garcia. I can say this first hand about Andy: when he fixates on something that he loves or admires, there is no greater supporter/believer. It's not that he seeks out causes: it's that he simply decides when something (or somebody I suppose) needs to be stood by, supported, celebrated and sees it as his duty to be steadfast. I felt that when he read and loved my screenplay; there was nothing he wouldn't do to help me get this done...
And when Andy found the "sleeping giant" Cachao--then a seventy-year old man--he frankly changed the aging Cuban's life. He began producing concerts of Cachao's work which led to a CD which won a grammy as well as making the first of two documentaries about Cachao and a final blast of worldwide recognition for the aging musical giant. Not every artist comes to their prime in their seventies and eighties but, thanks to A.G., Cachao was finally given his due and allowed his place on the world stage--a place he'd always deserved but which life, for various reasons had never quite...enough. You get the idea. Below are clips of Andy Garcia and Israel "Cachao" Lopez as well as some footage of Andy's very moving farewell speech to his mentor, delivered just this past March after the master's death at the age of 89.
(A Raymond De Felitta Post--now can I get back work?)