On his forthcoming album, Live at the Village Vanguard (April 10),
Cuban pianist Jesus "Chucho"
Valdés infuses jazz standards with traditional Cuban
rhythms and textures.
"It's Afro-Cuban jazz Latin jazz, if you will that draws from
standard repertoire," Valdés said. " 'My Funny Valentine' is done in a
danzon style, and we continue to find interesting fusions with
American standards and traditional Cuban rhythms."
With a technical facility comparable to piano masters
COLOR=#003163">Art Tatum COLOR=#003163">Oscar Peterson
COLOR=#003163">Oscar Peterson, Valdés, 58, is at
his artistic peak. He's been a legend in Cuba since the early '70s, when he
formed his first trio with bassist Carlos Del
Puerto and trap drummer
COLOR=#003163">Enrique Pla, the nucleus for the
pioneering Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble
Spawned from La Orquesta Cubana de
Musica Moderna (The Cuban Orchestra of Modern Music)
an elite orchestra organized in the '60s by the cultural arm of the
Cuban government Irakere included later solo stars saxophonist
Paquito D'Rivera and
trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.
The group's 1973 debut album revolutionized Afro-Caribbean jazz. Yet
while most prominent members of the ensemble defected from the socialist
island nation, Valdés remained behind.
But because of relaxed rules governing Cuban artists visiting the U.S.,
Valdés has been able to perform in the States frequently. His band
on Live at the Village Vanguard includes bassist
COLOR=#003163">Francisco Rubio Pampin
COLOR=#003163">Francisco Rubio Pampin, trap drummer
Raúl Pineda Roque
and conguero Roberto Vizcaíno
Guillót, young Cubans who are fusing traditional music
with new sounds.
Most of the disc's nine tunes, such as the riveting "Anabis" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Valdes,_Chucho/Anabis.ram">RealAu dio excerpt
dio excerpt), are Valdés originals. An exception is "Punto
Cubano," the rural guajira from eastern Cuba, written by
COLOR=#003163">Celina Gonzales, which Valdés
transforms into a suave salsa bebop tune. His sister
COLOR=#003163">Mayra Caridad Valdés
COLOR=#003163">Mayra Caridad Valdésjoins him
on the Afro-Latino lullaby "Drume Negrita."
"To Bud Powell" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Valdes,_Chucho/To_Bud_Powell.ram" >RealAudio excerpt
>RealAudio excerpt), Valdés' homage to the great bebop
pianist, may raise some eyebrows.
"That's a very personal piece," Valdés said. "It was a homage to him
but not played in his style. It's a Caribbean Bud Powell. There's a link
between clave and swing that bebop pianists understood, like Powell
and Ray Bryant, who wrote
'Cubano Chant.' "
For his current tour, Valdés has been trying out new musicians: "I'm
searching out new ideas and trying to refresh myself a bit. It's still a quartet,
but it's a whole new lineup coming in, with the exception of my sister Mayra,
who continues as a featured vocalist with us."
Valdés is in New York with his father, the renowned mambo-era
pianist and bandleader Bebo
Valdés, working on a film about the evolution of Latin
jazz. Chucho Valdés would not divulge any details, but as member
of the organizing committee for the upcoming Smithsonian Institution touring
exhibition "Jazz en Clave," he is building a bridge that reminds us what an
important Cuban connection jazz has at the trunk of its root.
Chucho Valdés tour dates:
April 1; Tacoma, Wash ; Great Aunt Stellas
April 49; New York, N.Y.; Blue Note
April 11; Princeton, N.J.; McCarter Theater
April 13; Huntington, W.V.; Marshall University
April 1722; Tokyo, Japan; Blue Note
April 28; Boulder, Colo.; Boulder Theater
May 1; Irvine, Calif.; Irvine Barclay Theater
May 27; Oakland, Calif.; Yoshi's
May 8; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Kuumbwa Jazz Center
June 10; Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian Institution, Baird Auditorium
June 12; Clinton, N.Y.; Wellin Hall
June 17; Highland Park, Ill.; Ravinia Jazz Festival
July 29; Katonah, N.Y.; Caramoor Festival
July 31August 1; Stanford, Calif.; Dinkelspiel Auditorium
Aug. 2; Hollywood, Calif.; Hollywood Bowl
Aug. 5; Portland, Ore.; Mt. Hood Jazz Festival