hurricane irene | descargas in miniature

\”He played the acoustic bass with his late brother, multi-instrumentalist Orestes López. The brothers composed literally thousands of songs together and were heavily influential on Cuban music from the 1930s to the 1950s. They introduced the nuevo ritmo (\”new rhythm\”) in the late 1930s, which transformed the danzón by introducing African rhythms into Cuban music, which led to mambo. They co-wrote the danzon \”Mambo\” which was called the \”Mother of all Mambos\” by Cuban writer G. Cabrera Infante.\”

More crucially still, in the thick of Batista era corruption, Havana\’s love affair with the tourist dollar – those government sanctioned rackets catering to Meyer Lansky\’s junkie cronies at the Hotel Nacional – Cachao was able to cement Afro-Cuban music as something beyond the disposable; a hoodoo preamble to louche excess. A pastel coloured zoot suit. A lonely valise parked under the bed. An airline ticket. Prophylactics. The exhausted platinum bleach job wilting at the table; the priapic used car salesman with his face melting like a French pastry on the beach. In 1957, in those neon early hours staggered on from one paid set to the next, Cachao allegedly assembled a posse of musicians in a Havana recording studio to kick out the jams. To give vent to those emotions festering behind an endless circuit trotting out the same tired staple for vacationing guests. The result was an outpouring of improvisation on a par with Miles.

Locked down in New Jersey with Pete Rugolo; Gil Evans. Hatching his birth of the cool. Plotting, maybe, some rudimentary sketches of Spain. Israel López dropped the needle straight on the groove. Delighted with what he knew lurked in the can, Cachao immediately set about touting the reel to Panart, Havana\’s leading independent record label, situated on San Miguel 410, between Campanario and Lealtad, founded 14 years earlier by musician and engineer, Ramón Sabat. Panart, allegedly, did not share his enthusiasm. Nonetheless releasing his \’descargas\’. Under the title, \”Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions In Miniature\”, issue # 2092. The world pricked its ears. Fidel proved not so generous. Whatever seeds of disquiet were sown in vinyl, the Revolution of 1959 turned at a different rate. Havana\’s reign at centre of a profligate storm was finished, felled with a rifle shot straight between the eyes. Cachao himself, walking wounded. Departing for Miles\’ Spain with Ernesto Duarte\’s Orchestra in 1962 – while he could, or as directed – Israel López threw on the yoke of self imposed exile, trading the Egypt of his fathers for New York City, then Vegas. A dead red sea. Faux pyramids; pharaohs; jazz and jism. The hurricane, when it arrived, was all but spent. Spitting pennies onto the carpeted forecourt of a jangling casa. Front of house. An affront. Clasping hands, laundering old favours with those CIA pension cheques stacked up in chips. Irene, Irene. She\’ll give you a slap, still. All the way from her sulking retreat in a Latin safe harbour, those tortured silk knickers.

An acquaintance of an acquaintance – several times removed – is said to have alighted here. Arriving by cab, these past 48 hours.

\”I don\’t get it,\” he is said to have said. \”Is it real ? Pretense ? It reads like shit.\”

What\’s to get ? You\’re either on, or off the bleachers. Puckered in, or nudged between the benches on a trombone\’s sliding fart. Breaking wind in the dark.

Everything else is circumstantial.

CACHAO Y SU RITMO CALIENTE: DESCARGA CUBANA from \”Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature\” LP (Penart) 1957 (Cuba) CACHAO Y SU RITMO CALIENTE: TROMBON CRIOLLO from \”Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature\” LP (Penart) 1957 (Cuba) IN MINIATURE THROUGH A TELESCOPE


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