John Edwards Gunn
I’ve never quite got into Latin music. Too often it seems overcooked, too spicy. Those fiery syncopated rhythms are made only for wild dancing in steamy Caribbean nightclubs. Nothing cool about it. But this music, led by bassist Cachaito, from Cuba, is more subtle. Here we have careful arrangements of percussion and bass topped with horns and flute. It’s smoky, night music for after hours bars. Sophisticated, but nothing bland about it.
I haven’t tapped in to the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, but Cachaito was part of that. His album differs from the other Buena Vista offshoots because he’s not seeking to recapture past glories. This is contemporary, radical and experimental, but in a way that develops the music in a natural way.
The deep, dark drum and bass vibes that underpin each track forms a structure that allows the players plenty of room for manouevre. Hugh Masekela guests on “Tumbanga” and his ethereal trumpet integrates beautifully with the dub effects on Cachaito’s bass. Pee Wee Ellis, a key James Brown sideman, also guests, playing tenor sax and Hammond on the haunting “Wahira”, sung by Ibrahim Ferrer.
The most obvious departure from Cuban traditions is the aptly-titled “Cachaito In Laboratory”, featuring Dee Nasty’s turntablism. It’s a successful fusion of Cuban music with hip hop without compromising either style, but it would be dangerous to go too far down that road. One track is great, but over an album it would be hard to keep up the energy and we’d end up with downtempo/triphop sludge.
The collaborations are best kept low-key. Really, Cachaito has proved with this, his debut solo album, that he’s got enough new directions of his own to explore. His music is tough and beautiful, with a vital urge for exploration.