Bobby Carcassés Reality Turned Legend
By: José Dos Santos Photos: Courtesy of Bobby Carcassés & Prensa Latina
Many surprising things are said about Bobby Carcasses like "he's the best kept secret in Cuban music," Of course, fans of his have been appreciating him for half a century of work on stage and in recording studios.
During his younger years, he was an outstanding athlete, setting a national record in indoor high jump, However, music and art were his main path ever since he started singing Italian songs and set foot microphone in hand, in the CMHW radio station in the city of Santa Clara, located in the centre of the island.
Roberto Arturo Carcassés Cusa was born in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, where his grandfather was the Cuban Consul General. Four years later, on August 29, 1938, he was officially registered in Cuba. His professional debut as a guest artist was made before his 20th birthday as an actor and singer. By that time, he was a so taking his first steps in painting and drawing.
In 1959 he was selected as a delegate to the World Festival of Youth and Students held in Vienna, Austria, as a singer in the A Cape a choir. From there, he travelled to the former Soviet Union and then to Bulgaria and France. In Paris, he met prominent jazz singers and composers such as Bud Powel, Kenny C ark and Lou Bennett with whom he shared several performances.
As an artist of diverse talents and abilities, he was a so among the founders of the Teatro Musical de La Habana (Musical Theater of Havana). Later he was able to improve his performance skills as a musical comedian at Teatro Martí. He also learned dancing and pantomime and was able to enrich his shows with the use of the fliscorno, the bass, the drums, the recorder and the "mangerophone," the latter being of his own invention.
But Bobby a so pays the piano and as many other instruments as he chooses to pay. He is also a vocalist of deep sensitivity with a great talent for "scat," the use of the voice as an instrument to improvise sounds.
He formed a part of such groups as Los Armónicos and Los Cinco. In 1979, he organized a club at the Cultural House in the Municipality of Plaza in Havana which became the seed of the well-known Jazz Plaza Festivals. It was in this movement, joined by many brilliant international jazz stars, where one of Carcassés' main facets developed: that of a mentor, facilitator and the driving force in the development of young talent.
A Natural Teacher
From his Afro-Cuban jazz groups and ensembles in the past right up to the cozy living room in his house, wherever Bobby has been, new generations of Cuban musicians have always flocked to him to rehearse or consult with him or to join in his projects. This constantly happens because with his re axed attitude and high standards, augmented by his know edge and experience, he is capable of boosting the talents of a of his students.
Anyone can ask for confirmation of this from such we established musicians as flute player Orlando Valle, now director of Otra Visión, or sax payer Cesar López, heading the group known as Habana Ensemble, or the multi-sax player Javier Zalba, co-director of Temperamento.
During the early phases of their careers, he also played an important role in the training of guitar player Jorge Luis Chicoy, piano and sax player Orlando "Cubajazz" Sánchez, and trumpet player Yasek Manzano, the latter having started with Bobby when he was only 11 years old.
Carcassés has a ways been surrounded by young people, even back in the 70's when Johnny's Dream Club was his nest in the Cuban capital. He a so created places to play jazz like the Hubert de Blanck Theater, the Mella Theater, the Czech Cultural Club, the Covarrubias Hall, the Café Cantante, the Maxim Cub, the Media Club - venue for the second season of the Cuban Jazz Club - and more recently the Almendares Park Amphitheater where he will perform again very soon.
Internationally, he has played with Eddie Palmieri, Dave Valentin, Tito Puente, Giovanni Hidalgo, Anthony Carrillo and McCoy Tyner, all of whom created unforgettable moments in the life of Carcassés. Another special moment occurred in New York where he sang a duet with another great Cuban scat singer, Fellove, the author of "Mango Mangüé."
Bobby has also composed songs such as "El amor llegara can el tiempo" (" Love will come in time"), "Como pampas de jabón" ("Just Like Soap Bubbles"), "Son de Cuba a Puerto Rico" ("Son from Cuba to Puerto Rico"), and "The Guanguancó Blues." He has participated in eight recordings in collaboration with Emiliano Salvador, Enrique Jorrín, Mario Bauzá, Chucho Valdés, and his son Roberto Julio. As leader, he has recorded albums such as Recordando a Benny Moré ("Recalling Benny Moré"), La esquina del Afrojazz ("The Corner of Afro-Jazz"), and Timbero Jazz.
As an actor, Carcassés has participated in several Cuban and foreign films: "Un Día en el Solar" ("A Day in the Tenement"), "De Cierta Manera" ("In a Certain Way") and "Robinson Crusoe." As a painter and sketch artist he has exhibited his works in the United States, Spain, Germany, Canada and South Africa. He is now working on another exhibition to be presented in Havana this summer which he has entitled "Cuadros, pintura y dibujos" (Pictures, Paintings and Drawings).
Another facet of this tireless creator is as a writer. In this field, he has a ready written articles for several publications a though, as he states, it is on y now that he will devote more time to this activity having been encouraged by his good friend Leonardo Acosta, musician, journalist and musicologist who recent y received the National Cuban Award for Literature.
This serious and at the same time cheerful man, though strict but also an improviser, consistent but a ways willing to plunge into new creative adventures, has done so much but is still exploring his many facets as an artist. More than a legend, Bobby Carcassés forms a part of the cultural treasures of his nation.