Chucho Valdes | Symphony Center | Jazz, International | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sun., Oct. 10, 7 p.m. 2010
Price: $20-$60
It's been nearly a decade since veteran Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes has performed in Chicago—in fact he's barely played in the States during that time—so this performance can be seen as evidence of a slow diplomatic thaw between his country and the U.S. He's continued to make great music, though, and on his stunning new album, Chucho's Steps (Four Quarters), he sounds as vital as ever. The record is full of nods to the collision between Afro-Cuban music and jazz, which has fueled Valdes's aesthetic for most of his career: In a tip of the cap to hard-bop drummer Art Blakey, Valdes calls his band the Afro-Cuban Messengers, and the title track has a complex, multisection 50-bar melody that's an obvious salute to Coltrane's breathless "Giant Steps." The album opens with the high-octane "Zawinul's Mambo," a serpentine monster that quotes Weather Report melodies over grooves as fiercely progressive as anything from rising young stars of Cuban jazz like Dafnis Prieto and Yosvanny Terry. "Danzon" begins with an elegant interpretation of the dance form it's named after, then jumps into the cha-cha, which descended from it; "Yansa," named for the Yoruban orisha of wind, is a stormy exposition on the malleability of the clave rhythm, pocked with pointillistic bass, violent piano clusters, and soulful call-and-response chants led by bata drummer Dreiser Durruthy Bombale. Valdes turns 69 the day before this concert, where he'll lead the excellent eight-piece combo from Chucho's Steps. —Peter Margasak

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