Cuban Jazz is the Best Jazz

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Thursday May 31, 2018

From Charleston City Paper

The Chucho Valdes Quartet proves that Cuban jazz is the best jazz
By: Stratton Lawrence

At once relaxed and full of energy, the band took us on a ride that was both soothing and invigorating.

“This is literally a high point,” said Ranky Tanky drummer Quentin Baxter as he introduced the band. He was absolutely right. The best bands always have two drummers, but most have more than four members. In this Quartet, Valdés’ piano is the only source of melody, save bassist Yelsy Heredia singing along with his bass notes like a human octave pedal. But that’s all they need ‘” more instrumentation might dilute Valdés’ duality as he plays two contrasting riffs with each hand.

Chucho Valdés Quartet is like the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones of Cuban jazz’“each member can sit back and contribute to the whole, and when it’s their turn to shine, remind you that they’re on the very short list of musicians with “best in the world” status. Drummer Dafnis Prieto took several solos throughout the evening, demonstrating dexterity that emitted excited, audible “wows” from the audience. Percussionist Yaroldy Abreu Robles was even more fun to watch on his conga fills, with his eyes wide and dreadlocks flying. During songs, he’d reach behind him to what seemed like a never-ending bag of tricks, revealing bells, shakers, chimes and rain-makers that added critical fills and flourishes to the sonic canvas.

The 76-year-old Valdés steered the ship, moving his nimble wrists and fingers with the ease of a man 50 years younger, and rarely looking down at the keys. His eyes were on his band and the intimate, exhilarating conversation we were all allowed to sit in on.

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