THE NEW XAVIER CUGAT ORCHESTRA- In 1985, at Ronald Reagan's Inaugural Ball, a Latin-American musical institution was reborn: Xavier Cugat had retired from show business in the 1970's but Reagan wanted to have his favorite band play at the ball. Enter Bob Kasha, a former Big Band pianist and booking agent at the famed Willard Alexander Agency. With the help of none other than Tito Puente, Bob assembled a group of thirteen players led by his wife, Ada Cavallo, who was no stranger to Cugat. She had auditioned for Cugat years earlier. Cugat, being a notorious lady's man, was duly impressed with her vivacity and knock-out figure, but when he learned that her accompanist, Bob, was also her husband, he said, "Thank you so much. I'll be in touch," and that was that. Cut back to 1985. The band is such a success at the Inaugural Ball that Bob decides to approach Cugat with an offer to keep the Cugat name and the fantastic musical arrangements alive, and Cugat says, "Si."
The band went on to tour the U.S. and Japan for many years, with appearances at Disneyland, Disney World, on cruise ships and at major performance venues. Bob and Ada were each inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame and the band released several CD's of the incomparable charts that had audiences jumping up to the dance floor. As the years went by, Bob and Ada realized that it was time to find a successor to carry the band since they were planning to retire.
After trying out several candidates who didn’t quite fit the bill, they decided to put it all on hold rather than force the issue with someone who wasn’t “it.” Fate intervened when they received an announcement from Hofstra University on Long Island for a show called “Babalu-cy! The Art of Desi Arnaz” that had been created by Cuban-American singer Greg Purnhagen Gomez. Bob contacted Greg via the theater and a meeting was arranged. Impressed by Greg’s background, videos and music clips, they went to see the show and decided that Fate had delivered the ideal candidate to take the helm of the orchestra. As Greg likes to point out, there was a wonderful irony in the turn of events: Desi Arnaz, who played a bandleader on “I Love Lucy” got one of his biggest breaks from Cugat. Now once again, “Desi” (Greg), was re-discovered by “Cugat”, (Bob Kasha), and so the musical heritage of Xavier Cugat, which reaches back almost ninety years is being brought to life for an audience who can “hear it again for the first time.”