A Big Step for Chucho
The ubiquitous Cuban jazz musician's latest album spans the range of his talents and interests.
And of course there's Chucho, at ease in jazz and in Latin as well, tossing off long chromatic runs, pounding out chordal passages, easing off the gas pedal into a light touch and then easily switching to a repetitive Latin arpeggio to restore the groove. Not that it is ever lost by the very solid rhythm section that includes bassist Lázaro Rivero Alarcón, Juan Carlos Rojas Castro on drums and Yaroldy Abreu Robles on percussion. They easily handle the stop-start rhythms of "Both Sides" and are rock-steady when ensconced in the steady driving beat of more traditional jazz.
Chucho's composing talent shines throughout this collection but is especially bright on a couple of tunes, including "New Orleans," a tribute to the Marsalis family, which edges into a "traditional" improvisation; and "Yansá," which recalls the edgy harmonies of some 1970s jazz and then brings in some traditional Yoruba Orisha chants.
Chucho's Steps is a good introduction to Valdés if you are not familiar with him. For those who already admire his considerable talent, it is an impressive addition to a growing catalog of works by an omnivorous musician.
Valdés is completing a tour of the U.S.:
Oct. 24: Burlington, Vt., Flynn Theatre
Oct. 26: Hanover, N.H., Spaulding Auditorium at Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College
Oct. 28: Boston, Berklee Performance Center
Oct. 30: Washington, D.C., the Warner Center
Nov. 1: New York City, the Village Vanguard
Joel Dreyfuss, The Root's managing editor, has been known to occasionally join jam sessions at New York jazz clubs.