How many Grammys do you need to win to hold on to a record contract? If you're Israel "Cachao" Lopez, the answer is apparently more than one, for that's how many the mambo innovator and bass-playing genius won for Emilio Estefan's Sony imprint Crescent Moon since he signed to the label in 1994. Nevertheless, Crescent Moon declined to renew their contract with Cachao, who fulfilled his two-album deal with a pair of Master Sessions discs, each produced by actor Andy Garcia and featuring a stunning ensemble of Afro-Cuban jazz artists from Paquito D'Rivera to Nelson Gonzalez. The first of those albums, from 1994, received a 1995 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance.
According to Frank Amadeo, vice president of Estefan Enterprises and Crescent Moon, Cachao's option was dropped because of the 78-year-old artist's supposed inability to tour. "His age and his health prohibit him from being able to get out there and promote an album like you need to," says Amadeo. "It was an obstacle for us."
Cachao, reached last week at his Miami home, says he's in good health and is planning an upcoming tour in South America, and may hit Japan this winter. He'll also be performing Saturday, October 26, at the Gusman Center in a concert headlined by Cuban jazz great Bebo Valdes, whose orchestra will also include Paquito D'Rivera, Juanito Marquez, and Luis Miranda, among others. "There was not a problem," Cachao says of Crescent Moon's decision. "They have a different marketing focus, that's all. My music is mostly instrumental, and that's not what they do." He adds that Andy Garcia is currently shopping him around to different labels.
Amadeo says that Cachao is still writing for Crescent Moon's publishing company and that several film producers are interested in using the master's work. Cachao's music has previously been featured on the soundtracks to such films as The Birdcage and Steal Big, Steal Little.
Still, it's hard not to be infuriated at the Estefan label's move. You would think an artist of Cachao's stature and importance would be the shining diamond in any label's crown, not just because of his reputation, but because of his continuing vitality. Those Master Sessions volumes are uniformly brilliant, a testament to both the power of Cachao's music and his skills as a musician and bandleader. They will no doubt remain benchmarks of Cuban music history long after Estefan's Crescent Moon has set.
If you go to hear Harry Pussy next month at Churchill's, where they'll be playing on November 5 with the delightfully oddball Irving Klaw Trio from Olympia, Washington, you'll hear a new man skronking and scraping on-stage. Holy Terrors guitarist Dan Hosker has joined the band, replacing Mark Feehan, who left Harry Pussy a couple of weeks ago to join a recently re-formed Stun Guns.
"I had been with [Harry Pussy] for almost three years and I just got kind of tired of it," says Feehan, who had played with HP's Bill Orcutt years ago in the Trash Monkeys. "It was nothing against them, and it wasn't an acrimonious split. I just wanted to do something else."
Meanwhile, Harry Pussy has a relative slew of stuff coming out: a compilation track for a San Francisco fanzine; a split single with Pelt, a kinda weird Richmond, Virginia, band that's drop-dead amazing; a seven-inch for Destroy All Music; and another album -- their fourth, including the What Was Music? compilation -- for the Siltbreeze label in Philadelphia. Lastly, Bill Orcutt's debut solo album, called Bill Orcutt, will be issued later this month on Audible Hiss, a New York indie.
If you didn't get your body and brain suitably funked at the recent George Clinton show in Sunrise -- and I've heard that some people didn't -- swing by Rose's Bar & Music Lounge this Saturday for the area debut by Shag, the Cincinnati-based proteges of P-Funk bass extraordinaire Bootsy Collins. They'll take the stage at Rose's around 11:00; cover charge is seven bucks. You'll find the club at 754 Washington Ave., in beautiful Miami Beach.
The racially mixed, eight-piece band has a live album produced by Bootsy and issued last year on his Bootzilla/Solid label, titled appropriately Live!, but I haven't heard it. I have heard the band's new Silver City EP, and it's a mighty fine chunk of what you'd expect from anyone associated with Bootsy -- slightly warped cosmic funk, with flashes of guitar-heavy rock ("Feelsgood") and rambunctious dance-floor grooves ("Must We Burn").
By the way, Clinton's Sunrise concert was just incredible, despite the unexplained absence of Bootsy and synth wiz Bernie Worrell. Beginning with a soaring, majestic rendering of "Maggot Brain" (R.I.P. Eddie Hazel), Clinton and crew ran through nearly 30 years' worth of psycho-funk classics for an age-and-race-spanning, nearly full house -- from "One Nation Under a Groove" and "(Not Just) Knee Deep" to a slinky, stripped-down version of the new "Summer Swim," from Clinton's latest album The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership. Inspirational Rap: Clinton's lengthy and impassioned call for the legalization of marijuana. Inspirational Moment: When the ten-minute "Atomic Dog" turned into the fifteen-minute "Give It Up or Turn It Loose." Notwithstanding the MIA Bootsy and Bernie, the Mothership was indeed in full operation.
-- By John Floyd
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