Chucho's Irakere shows "virtuoso fire combined with compositional concision"

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Friday November 13, 2015

From The Boston Globe
By Jon Garelick

Chucho Valdés and band summon spirit of Irakere

Performances of instrumental music often embody a tension between virtuoso display and the casting of narrative spells: look-no-hands acrobatics and the dream-like weave of ancient storytelling. The generous performance by iconic Cuban pianist-composer Chucho Valdés and his Afro-Cuban Messengers, in a Celebrity Series of Boston concert at Berklee Thursday night, had all of this, and then some.

Valdés, now 74, is one of the great figures in modern Cuban music. With his band Irakere (for which this tour is named), he revolutionized Cuban music: ‘bringing together jazz and ancestral forms,’ as he recently told The New York Times, but really bringing in all manner of modern and classical musics. His pianism is as protean as his bandleading, a daunting encyclopedia of techniques and deep musical knowledge.

Irakere, whose most famous early members included Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera, disbanded in 2005. This 40th-anniversary tour (and an accompanying album) provided a chance for Valdés to look back at the music he created with that group, performing with an expanded version of his Afro-Cuban Messengers.

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