Chucho: "When I Play Solo I Feel Totally Free"

Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) His hits with Irakere are a little in the background today while his presentations with his Latin Jazz quartet are fresher. The recent recordings along with his father, the great Bebo Valdes, still ring in our ears, but watching and listening to maestro Jesus Chucho Valdes in a piano recital is a chance to experience his talent in its full dimension.

On the first of the six performances at Hollywood’s Catalina’s Bar & Grill, the Cuban pianist brought an LA audience a small part of what he did at New York’s Lincoln Center some years ago. “When I play alone I feel totally free,” Valdes said once, while talking about his recitals. It is the same feeling he transmits to the audience.

The precision of each of his movements, his ability to play a melody with his left hand and freely improvise with the right, makes him a giant on his solo piano. His inspiration emerges after an introduction like “Bésame Mucho,” which opened the presentation.

Alternating the soft movements with the strong and grave sound Valdes improvises with his own style, not exactly the classic jazz approach starting with melody, then improvisation and later returning to melody.

The illustrious Cuban pianist does not abuse the length of each song. An exquisite jazz version of Somewhere over the Rainbow demonstrates the particular music personality of the Cuban pianist, a beautiful mix of sounds perfectly matching with the song that sometimes leads one to feel that there are pieces of other well-known songs in it.

The excellent technique of going over the keys from the high to the low notes, with an unusual speed or suddenly with a soft calm, is the style of the founder of Irakere; many specialized critics still can not define.

Although Valdes himself admits his influences from Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. The truth is that while playing jazz Chucho Valdes is himself and nobody else. He has been able to make the piano the polyphonic instrument he thinks it is and on which he makes the notes and tones he wants for his compositions and improvisations.

Much acclaimed, the great figure of piano returned to the intimate Catalina’s to play his always welcomed version of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s “La Comparsa.”

It is said that for solo piano concerts the artist has to have a very special fame and a very strong personality to keep an audience interested during an entire set. Chucho Valdes is not a stranger to the world’s most famous stages and he is considered one of the best jazz and Latin jazz pianists.

Buy chucho Valdes’ CDs
New Conceptions
Solo Piano
Briyumba Palo Congo
Fantasia Cubana: Variations on Classical Themes
, Yemayá, Afrocubanismo Live!, Bele Bele en La HabanaLive at the Village Vanguard, Babalu Ayé, and Desafios (with Omara Portuondo,
Solo: Live in New York
Unforgettable Boleros

Live in Cuba
Cuban Jazz Pianissimo
, Indestructible (Irakere), En Vivo (with Irakere and Ivan Lins), Invitacion, and Canciones Inéditas

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.