It's about time. If the tympanic membranes have sucked off enough of those ultra-polished Buena Vista overdubs and their global ooze, Cuban music lovers should warmly welcome the rawer, more accessible vision of veteran bassist Cachaito Lopez' self-titled solo (released just after the deadline for the 2002 Grammys. Hmmm. Yes, plotting, plotting). The Buena Vista experience may have been a portal with its pre-Castro ear candy, but Cachaito zeroes right into the mood swings of a grittier Cuban reality. Between the welcome mat of "Mis Dos Peque“as," a brooding jazz-infected son montuno, and "Anais," a jagged back-alley rumba, the collection might best be described as Bitches Brew-meets-Beny More. The Jamaican-flavored "Cachaito in Laboratory" (the disc's most innovative morsel) is a postmodern meltdown of French DJ Dee Nasty's hip-hop scratching, Lopez' bass genius, and Manuel GalbŠn's acid-influenced guitar. Other numbers include the Charles Mingus-inspired "Tumbao No. 5," and "Wahira," the only song with a vocal track (none other than Ibrahim Ferrer's). With Juan de Marcos Gonzalez' and Demitrio Mu“iz' direction and arrangements, the recording comes along as the much-needed and tonque-in-cheek backlash to the gaping void following the Buena Vista refinery. Although Lopez has played on every album borne from the BVSC phenomenon, Cachaito is a far cry from the residual bandwagon cash-ins. This one floats straight from the throat of the Havana underground. A must to the aficionado geared for the straight dope.
James Blood Ulmer
James Blood Ulmer
Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions / Label M
James "Blood" Ulmer has developed a reputation over his 40-odd year career for noisy, inconsistent and often wildly unpredictable recordings. Primarily a jazz musician, his music sometimes reels in a bit of funk, rock, blues, R&B, etc. Some of these experiments work out, others do not. His newest album, Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions, luckily is one of the former. A collection of blues covers from such greats as Willie Dixon and the late John Lee Hooker (for whom the album is dedicated), the album fits the Ulmer profile. The sound is rough, not only around the edges but through and through. At the end of one song Ulmer can be heard asking for a retake and one has to wonder if the band ever got around to his request. Some musical moments on the album lean toward the outer limits of what's definable as music. And many pockets have a definite non-bluesy feel. But the final product of all this is an edgy, fresh-feeling blues album, which with a healthy dose of Ulmer's good humor, works. Although surely not as experimental or avant garde to be one of Ulmer's best albums, Memphis Blood sticks close enough to its roots to succeed.