Since bursting onto the scene in 1996, the name Buena Vista Social Club has become synonymous with Afro-Cuban music. So much so that by the time Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez released his freshman effort in 2001, his involvement in the group had already cemented his place as one of the most innovative and influential bassists in the Latin Jazz world. But it was through the eponymous recording “Cachaito” that the depth of his genius was revealed and, with it, the evolution of the Afro-Cuban sound.
To the casual listener, “Cachaito” checks all the traditional boxes: Joyful melodies and complex rhythms are front and center; the trademark percussion of claves, timbales, and congas are all in good supply as well. But listen more closely and an unexpected blend of ideas begins to appear. Here, a touch of dub. There, the strut of a tango. Now a riff that borders precariously on surf guitar, some subtly soaring strings and … Excuse me, was that a sample? Lopez leans into the role of bandleader with intoxicating confidence.
Take for example the track “Tumbao No. 5 (Para Charlie Mingus).” The potent bassline anchors the composition with a hypnotic groove, escorted by nothing more than two percussionists, a saxophone and – yes – a sample of Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song.” It’s a sparse but funky affair that could have made even the notoriously cantankerous bass legend himself grunt in begrudging approval. If you’ve ever wondered what we mean by “Jazz Without Boundaries,” then consider this album your answer.
“Cachaito” is more than just an Afro-Cuban album. It is both a love letter to the rich musical tapestry of Cuba and a tribute to the borderless scope of that numinous art form that we call jazz.