Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Cachao: Cachao y Su Descarga '77 [Salsoul, 1977]
Despite a decade east of Avenue B I've never responded to salsa, which is a quirk, not a judgment; it must have to do with my clumsy dancing, my lack of Spanish, my finickiness about horns. Even Grupo Folklorico, whom I love live and admire on record, rarely find their way to my turntable. But I play this for everyone I can. Cachao--real name Israel Lopez--helped invent salsa, and here recreates two phases of its evolution. The style of side one dates from the '50s and sounds more or less like the small-group salsa of today; although I appreciate the dynamics of its percussion, I'm not drawn to it. But the style of side two--which dates from 1938, when Cachao claimed the genteel danzon for black rhythm in Havana--I find breathtaking in its conjunction of restrained swing and elegant romanticism. Because it is simultaneously suave and audacious, it reminds me a little of early Duke Ellington, although finally it's more conventional. But Duke Ellington never tempted me to learn to mambo. A-