Written under the influence of Cachao at the Arturo Sandoval Club Thursday May 18.
You get the feeling that a beast of beat was placed by the hand of Chango or Yemaya or Jesucristo on this earth in this club and before the worshipping eyes of humans sipping Pinot Grigio and mojitos to make them understand that music and art and age and the beat of city rhythms transcend the clouds of politics and problems and distinguishes the artist from the disarray in the lives of mere humans. Cachao sitting onstage 87 years young and bumping his hand and rod on the acoustic bass cannot be of this world.
That Kool Aid everyone else drank was rejected by his convictions for music, bass, audience, crew, loose change, delight. He stoops over on his stool, conversing with his bass, coy and glancing over at Federico Brito as his violin cries to life. The two duel onstage and carry on their joke and rivalry on for the audience that whistles and wows and gawks as the tiny laser of eely silver slices from the stage and Cachao looks over. That violin punctures the delicate night, and eyes water. noooooo! It’s too sad, too quiet, too down for Miami, for this place. Cachao won’t have it. His fingers gong and pound power into the throat of bass, a bombing throttle, and the joy leaks from their serious showdown and Federico and Cachao smile at each other and everything is settled in the Arturo Sandoval Club. Cachao, 87, 8 –7 three years shy of four score and seven, sits in old age on stage and there is nothing on earth, not the atom or gun or document that can ever obliterate the notes he spills into the atmosphere.
Cachao, blessed by a holy pulse, you bang your digits on metal strings and people wail, Cachao, in your old age you’ve got the world’s attention and you flash a smile for the goons out here wondering in awe what water you drink from, what place you seek sanctuary, what women you keep with, old Cachao, man you are no saint of art, no monk of modern ways. No sir, mischief winks in your cosmos. You drift hypnotized as bass consumes your mood, and the audience gasps. Your heads slumps softly over your wooden first love, the glow of stage lights snows over your shoulders. It’s almost like your band mates think maybe this is it, maybe your mind has drifted too far this time, maybe your age is taking you too far from their rhythmic lassos and you are too distant beyond their range, too far gone to bring you back. But suddenly as though with an afterthought, your thumb bumps a string and your fingers tumble into place and suddenly you pluck the perfect note, you find it loitering on your instrument, the ideal tune that Mozart or Beethoven would have written on paper, suddenly Cachao, you smile all teeth and your guayabera frames your forearm as you get the crowd high on bass notes, the drug you deal in beats.
Cachao is back on earth, and he’s in charge on stage, taking control of the band, which everyone thinks is falling apart but is actually wandering in melodic indifference until the master gets back to the planet and si, Mami! Si Papi! He’s back and the music thunders to life with cymbals spilling incredible rhythmic gossip into Miami people lucky enough to get soaked in it, lucky enough to towel-dry brows before Cachao.
He cradles the bass and fondles and slaps it, his belly so stiff and settled that it makes him look like his instrument. He scowls and frowns and grimaces at his bass, this sculptured, polished beauty that drives him insane, gives him a reason to look forward to another night, that he scolds and slaps around when its rebelling, yes a man with his fist clenched only for love and trying to study it all in her flowing strings. When it's all over bandmates come to him and lock arms to help him offstage, his footing shaky in his twilight, and he arrives back in Miami, banished back to mankind before the next show blasts him back to rapture.