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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Sunset Strip Jumps With Mambo Man

October 10, 1994|LEILA COBO-HANLON

"The maestro wants to play some more," announced actor Andy Garcia as shouts of " Otra! " ("Another one!") thundered through the House of Blues on Saturday.

From the look of it, the maestro--bassist and composer Israel (Cachao) Lopez--would have gladly played until dawn if it weren't for club regulations. As it was, the 75-year-old Cuban legend gave Sunset Strip a rare infusion of Cuba's Tropicana sound, leading a large band that included some of Latin jazz's best-known names in a rapturous evening of Cuban music.

Unfortunately, the sound system wasn't up to par with the music, and many of Cachao's improvisatory recitatives were lost initially to a scratchy sound and, later, just swallowed up by the room's din. This didn't prevent the sold-out crowd from attempting to dance to the contagious music, although there was virtually no space to do so.

Hosted by Garcia, who has become Cachao's latter-day patron, the evening marked the second Los Angeles appearance of the man many credit with inventing the mambo in the 1930s. It was Garcia who "rediscovered" Cachao with his 1992 film "Cachao," after the musician had languished for years playing birthday parties in Miami. On Saturday, Cachao's descargas, or jam sessions, were highlighted by superb solos from the likes of trumpeter Alfredo (Chocolate) Armenteros, tenor saxophonist Justo Almario, conguero Francisco Aguabella, tres player Nelson Gonzalez and flutist Artie Webb, among others.

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