A Towering Afro-Cuban Pianist

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Friday September 21, 2018


Chucho Valdés Toasts a Lineage As Well as a Heritage with His New Album, Jazz Bata 2
By: Nate Chinen

[…] Now Chucho Valdés is about to release a new album, Jazz Batá 2, that burnishes his stature as a towering Afro-Cuban pianist of our time, while reclaiming a meaningful chapter from his past. The album is due out Nov. 16 on Mack Avenue Records, which has shared one track here as an exclusive premiere: ’100 Años de Bebo,’ or ’100 Years of Bebo,’ featuring violinist Regina Carter.

The song’s title is a nod to Bebo Valdés’s centenary, which falls on Oct. 9. (Chucho has the same birthday; he’ll be turning 78.) A danzón-mambo with a lilting melody exquisitely played by Carter, it’s a composition that holds sentimental associations. ‘No one’s heard this tune,’ Valdés says in a press release. ‘I’m the only person who knows it. When I was a child, Bebo played it on the piano at home. Just a tune, very beautiful, and as many times as he played it, it always captured my attention. I don’t believe he ever recorded it. Since it’s his centenary, I added an introduction, I put a tumbao at the end, and recorded it.’ (Don’t miss the delirious ‘laughing’ effect that Carter plays at the onset of the tumbao, just after the three-minute mark ‘” and stay put for her marvelous solo, which leads to a show of mastery by Valdés.)

[…] The Afro-Cuban jazz of our current moment often bears a clear connection to the ideas that Valdés was exploring with Jazz Batá. Master Cuban musicians like Román Díaz, who plays batá drums in and out of his band Rumba Habanera, have made manifest the pull of folkloric rhythm. Modern bandleaders from Yosvany Terry to David Virelles have foregrounded it in their compositions.

So there should be a place for Jazz Batá 2, which comes on the heels not only of Familia but also Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac). Valdés will be on tour with this new project in Europe through the fall; he’ll bring it to The Jazz Cruise, which disembarks from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in early 2019.

Read more here