Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente – Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions (1957)


Cachao y Su Ritmo Caliente
Descargas – Cuban Jam Sessions (1957)

Originally released by Panart as “Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions In Miniature”. Reissued by Vampi Soul (Spain) using this title and adding extra tracks in 2005


1. Descarga Cubana
2. Goza Me Trompeta
3. Cogele el Golpe
4. Trombon Criollo
5. Malanga Amarilla
6. Pamparana
7. Oye Mi Tres Montuno
8. Controversia de Metales
9. A Gozar Timbero
10. Sorpresa en Flauta
11. Estudio en Trompeta
12. Guajeo de Saxos

These tracks are all massive, amazing, landmark recordings. Israel “Cachao” López pretty much singlehandedly invented the Cuban upright bass by transposing the tumbao rhythm to the instrument. This pre-Revolution recording session is not only amazing 33 minutes of music but also very important historically, as it is one of the earliest examples (maybe THE earliest example) of taking themes from Cuban popular and folk musics and using them as a springboard for out and out jazz improvisation, a technique that would have reverberations far outside the island itself. According to the stories, this record was recorded almost spontaneously in the wee hours of the early morning after the musicians had finished their night’s work playing in the popular clubs and casinos of the day. (One myth even says this album was recorded after-hours at the Tropicana club, which is ridiculous – crystal clear fidelity and wide dynamic range is proof this was recorded at an actual recording studio.)

I have not heard the VampiSoul pressing of this with the extra tracks, and it seems to be out of print. They are a cool enough label but I often find their mastering to be a bit on the loud side — plus, since I know of a few cases where they have been tied up in legal wrangling over royalties, I am doubtful about what master tapes they are using sometimes. This is not a slag against VampiSoul, really: they have made all kinds of extremely rare recordings available that I would otherwise have never heard (several of which have already been featured here). But they don’t give the same kind of TLC to their releases that other reissue labels (like Soundway or Analog Africa) give with their exceptional liner notes, photos, research, and generally great sound.

This pressing was mastered in Cuba in the mid-90s and sounds quite nice to my ears. It makes no real attempt at noise reduction so you get lots of warm tape hiss when things get quiet. Me likes.

password: vibes

Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76


Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76
Various Artists
Soundway Records (SNDWCD008)
Every Soundway compilation is a labor of love and this one is no exception. This collection focuses on the Fuentes label of Colombia, which has been active there since the 1930s. Covering a mighty chunk of stylistic territory and a span of over fifteen years is no mean feat and it’s remarkable the collection holds together as well as it does. It has its flaws but they are relatively minor and far outweighed by the fact that Soundway is making this music available to a wider audience that to a large extent have not had much access to it.

Trust me when I say you do not want to be in the middle of a conversation between a Puerto Rican, a Cuban, a Venezuelan, and a Colombian about who was the best salsa music or, Lord have mercy, it’s origins. This release does nothing to clarify that contentious morass. In terms of the salsa and descarga jams on this collection, the influence of the Nuyorican sound is definitely in force, not too surprising given its enormous popularity during the time period, as well as merengue and mambo. And while these tracks are excellent, what really interests me here is the costeña music, the sounds from Colombia’s pacific coast with its heavily African and indigenous elements. Particularly cumbia but also fandango, mapalé and other variants, this stuff is the shit you want off this compilation. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough of it to satisfy me.


And you thought Colombia’s finest export was.. oh, nevermind

The liner notes by Costa Rican music scholar Roberto Ernesto Gyemant start out beautifully with a compelling narrative of his experiences as a crate-digger and fanatic of Colombian music trying to track down some of these records and the people who made them. They provide a lot of historical and cultural context for which I am always grateful, and a fair amount of detail. Unfortunately that detail starts to bog the text down after a while, and is perhaps catering to musicologists and specialists. After the strong initial pages the text takes on a hurried, somewhat sloppy quality, as if the writer was rushing to meet a deadline. Exhibit A is the sentence appearing at the end of one paragraph that says merely, “Sentence about cienaguera,” obviously a note the author made to himself… I know I am an asshole for pointing that out but it cracked me up. Besides, I am dying to know what he was going to write about cienaguera, it keeps me awake at night, restless and anxious.

The text also spends a lot of time focusing on Fruku e sus Tesos (see photo below) and The Latin Brothers to the exclusion of other artists included on the disc. Some of the personalities involved in this part of Discos Fuentes story went on to have huge international hits, none of which are included on this collection. Thus in a way, for the relative outsider to this scene it is as if you are missing some important elements of “the big picture”, as I imagine that some of those smash hits are still generating royalty revenue for the artists and are were thus not available for inclusion on a comp such as this.


The tracks included by Wganda Kenya (the farfisa-driven “Tifit hayed” and the highlife of “Elyoyo”) are pure delight but relegated in the text to the last paragraph, where we are told this sound was popular in the mid-70s but nothing else beyond that declaration. (Actually Wganda Kenya is described as relying on “a new generation of synthesizers”, none of which are present on these two tracks..) I would really, REALLY like to know more about the band Afrosound, whose sole track here closes out the compilation and brings a genuine creole fusion of African and Latin American musical greatness.

The album jackets included in the booklet are one of the best things here, a visual feast of kitschy contemporary design and layout. However the lovely sultry cover featured above appears to be unrelated to any of the music on the album, although I’m not about to complain about it’s inclusion.

On the whole this is not as organized and coherent a collection as Soundway’s Panama compilation (actually, there are three volumes now but I only have the first one and can’t comment on the others in the series). There is still plenty here to sink your teeth and ears into, so those who are interested should most certainly check this out.


 in 320 em pee tree


**P.S. There are typos in the archive folder that originated in the freedb (Free Database) information from which tracks and artists get downloaded within EAC. Thus, they are not my fault, I swear!! I know better than to spell Colombia with a “u”. However I will take the blame for not noticing it until now. I will probably rename the folder and rehost it, because I am obsessive-compulsive that way. Until then you can do it yourself. Just highlight the folder and press F2….

(password / senha in comments)