Talk to anybody well versed on the topic and the response is always the same: Israel "Cachao" Lopez is the true mambo king. Problem is, the always-humble and gentlemanly Cuban bassist/composer/jam session maestro has never felt a need to drag Perez Prado into a steel cage and slug it out for all the glory, particularly at the ripe old age of 86. It just isn't his style. "I didn't create music; music created me," he likes to say. But two Grammy Awards, 28 albums, and a self-titled documentary -- amassed during a seven-decade ride -- clearly indicate this guy is full of descarga.
Specializing in Afro-Cuban music yet not afraid to play with funky fusion or R&B, the Havana-born Lopez toured all over the island for the better part of five decades as a prominent jazz sideman. But not until 1993 -- almost a decade after arriving in Miami to stay, when Andy Garcia brought him out from under a rock via the 1993 documentary Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos (Cachao: Like His Rhythm, There Is No Other) -- did Cachao start attracting the masses and gaining worldwide recognition. His award-winning Master Session Vol. I (1994) and El Arte del Sabor (The Art of Flavor) (2002) are proof that he continues to pull all the right strings.
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Cachao and his Mambo Allstars perform at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at the Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. Tickets range from $26.50 to $46.50. Call 305-673-7300.