Garcia Directs Tribute to His Musical Idol Israel Lopez “Cachao” for Martell’s New Cognac Brand Caractère

No, it’s not a case of déjà vu…

Andy Garcia has, in fact, directed another tribute to his longtime musical idol, Israel LopezCachao.”

Andy Garcia

The 57-year-old Cuban actor first profiled the pioneering Cuban bassist and mambo originator in his 1993 documentary Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos.

Now Garcia has made Cachao the subject of a six-minute film produced for Martell‘s new Caractère cognac brand. The Academy Award-nominated actor, who plays the bongo drums, tells Billboard that he plans to record an album of his own songs with members of the late Cuban great’s band.

“The only thing he asked for in life was for the youth to maintain the traditions,” Garcia says of Cachao in the short, titled Mi Maestro. “And that’s what our relationship was about, maintaining the traditions of Cuban music. And that’s what I’m dedicated to today.”

Cachao is credited with inventing the mambo rhythm together with his brother Orestes Lopez. For decades, Cachao lived quietly in exile in Miami, performing in restaurants and at weddings. Garcia, whose own family left Cuba for South Florida, was often in the audience.

“He took me in not only as a musical protegé but as an extended member of his family,” says Garcia. He brought the aging Cuban musician out of obscurity in Miami with his documentary and, with the help of Emilio Estefan, a breakthrough album, Master Sessions Vol. 1. Garcia produced a total of four Cachao albums before his death in 2008, at age 89.

The Martell short shows the actor in his younger days working in the studio with the Cuban great. In new footage created for the project, he dances along with a group of professional mambo dancers during a jam on the beach.

Garcia is the first “Icon of Caractère” named by Martell in a program for the Hispanic market to promote the launch of the cognac, described by the company as representing “the true man of character.” The actor directed and narrates the short, which he presented at a screening event in Los Angeles last week (February 11).

In addition to appearing from time to time with the Cineson Allstars, Garcia has been writing songs and is “threatening to record an album with my original music” performed by the Cuban band, he tells Billboard. He recently collaborated with trumpet player Arturo Sandoval on the score for At Middleton, the January release he stars in with Vera Farmiga.

Garcia revealed another music-related project he has on the back burner: a movie about Chano Pozo, the Afro-Cuban conga player who collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie to create some of the most important music in the history of Latin Jazz. At age 33, The Havana-born Pozo was killed by a bookie in a bar in Harlem during a fight over a drug deal.

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