Put the force of McCoy Tyner, the superhuman keyboard agility of Art Tatum, and the delicacy of Erroll Garner into a 6-foot-4 Cuban-born frame, and you'll get Jesus "Chucho" Valdes, one of the greatest piano players on the planet. For three decades, Valdes led the Cuban superband Irakere, with Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. But in the last few years, Valdes has been spotlighting his pianistic prowess in small combos such as the quartet he led during a spirited stint at the legendary Village Vanguard in 1999. Backed by a young group of Cuban musicians–drummer Raul Pineda Roque, percussionist Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, and bassist Franciso Rubio Pampin–Valdes turns the piano into a hurricane of melody, harmony and rhythm.
A rare discovery of virtually unknown recordings. These are the unreleased sessions long awaited by every Latin jazz fan. These sessions were recorded in La Havana between 1976 and 1978, but between his excellent sound quality and the innovative music that Paquito created, we were amazed to discover that they sound like they were recorded yesterday! A great mix of Jazz and Latin groove. With Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdes, Carlos Emilio Morales and Oscar Valdes.
On this 13-track recording of voice and piano duets, there is no doubt from the first note to the last that you are experiencing the complete mastery of two Cuban music legends. Individually, the genius Valdés brings to his instrument, the piano, and the dramatic, bluesy, off-the-cuff singing (in Spanish) of the husky, pitch-perfect, purely articulated Portuondo, can both easily stand alone. But together, in this setting, they are making magic. You'll hear a variety of themes written by non-published Cuban composers (two by Valdés, ) suggested on the spot in the studio. It allows the two a rare spontaneity and freedom from rhythmic structures that is created, not produced. There are songs of love, regret, straight blues, the indomitable spirit of the oppressed Cuban peoples, pleading for salvation, and especially, lost in depression ("No Puedo Ser Feliz" ("Cannot Be Happy").
Issued just after his landmark two-week June 1998 gig at the Village Vanguard and subsequent U.S./Canada tour, Chucho Valdйs' first album for Blue Note bears out a lot of the hype surrounding this hugely gifted Cuban pianist. Unlike many of today's younger Cuban keyboard hotshots, Valdйs not only has great technical chops and musical erudition, he manages to stay closely tied to his Cuban rhythmic roots. Thus, he employs a Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaino Guillot along with the standard bass (Alain Pйrez Rodriguez) and drums (Raъl Pнсeda Roque), which dramatically increases the possibilities for rhythmic experiments. Valdes more often than not is all over the keyboard, comfortable with everything from Ravel-ian classical complexity to Bill Evans' introspection to Cecil Taylor-like crunches.
Chucho Valdes, Cuba's most famous jazz musician, has rebalanced the repertoire of his Afro-Cuban Messengers on Border-Free, mixing its American-jazz agenda (the group's name deliberately references both Valdes' roots and the late Art Blakey's classic soul-bop Jazz Messengers group) with more extended Latin-American input, and some Native American and Andalusian connections, too. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, guesting on three tracks, is warmly romantic on tenor on the loping Tabu, agile and fluent on the Cuban dance-shuffle Bebo, and mercurial on a soprano-sax break full of north African microtonalisms on the hurtling, horn-hooting finale, Abdel.
This is a reissue of some of Cuban piano master Chucho Valdes's earliest Havana recordings in 1964 (almost a decade before he founded the legendary Irakere), embracing the debut of the great Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera. It has been gathering dust for decades. There are 27 short tracks, most of them following the formalities of traditional Cuban dance styles, and many of the solos are barely longer than a chorus or two - which throws the emphasis on to the historical interest of the materials, rather than the spontaneities of the players.