Chucho Valdés’ newest release, “Chucho’s Steps,” is as much of a discovery for the preeminent pianist as for his audience. In his first solo project since 2003’s “New Conceptions,” Valdés speaks through his distinctive and extraordinary compositions and arrangements, reflecting upon his own evolution throughout the previous years.
Born in Quivicán, Cuba, in 1941, Chucho Valdés is one of Cuba’s most famous pianists, bandleaders, composers and arrangers. Having began his music training with his father, famed pianist Bebo Valdés, when he was three years old, Chucho’s style melds his diverse experiences and skills: classical, jazz, bop, Cuban and swing, all combined by his virtuosic dexterity on the piano.
Perhaps best known for founding the influential Latin jazz band IRAKERE in 1972, Valdés continues to develop unique works of art, generating ideas for a change of style, orchestral format and concept, that nonetheless end up characteristically reflecting pure Chucho.
While exploring his own growth, Valdés, joined by the Afro-Cuban Messengers, pays tribute to those that have influenced him and aided his musical development. For example, the title track, a tribute to John Coltrane and his masterpiece Giant Steps, rounds off the harmonic structure in 50 bars without repetition. The improvisation and variations heard in this track create the illusion of a concert or suite, while exhibiting the virtuosity of Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers.
The upbeat and funky opening track, “Zawinul’s Mambo,” pays homage to Austrian keyboardist and composer, Joe Zawinul, whom Valdés cites as an integral inspiration to the development of his composition and technique.
“New Orleans,” a tribute to the musicians of New Orleans, specifically the Marsalis family, is a walk through the history of the “birthplace of jazz” beginning with Jelly Roll Morton’s transformation of ragtime to jazz.
In the opening notes of “Yansa,” Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers deftly evoke Yoruba mythology’s “Queen of the Wind and Storms.”
“Julian,” a bluesy lullaby dedicated to Chucho’s youngest son, is a melodic tune ranging from the lyrical to the playful. The beautiful melody, along with the saxophone and trumpet solos, contribute to the wonder of simplicity inspired by father-son tenderness.
Valdés’ new album Chucho’s Steps with the Afro-Cuban Messengers, which will extensively tour the USA in October 2010, marks Chucho’s return to the U.S. for the first time in seven years. Chucho’s sister, Mayra Caridad Valdés, will be joining Chucho and The Afro-Cuban Messengers on tour.
Chucho’s illustrious career has garnered him seven Grammy wins and 16 nominations over the past three decades. His most recent wins, a 2010 Grammy and a 2009 Latin Grammy for the record Juntos para Siempre, saw him collaborate with his father, Bebo Valdés, a major player on the Cuban jazz scene in his own right.
Chucho Valdés has recorded more than 80 CD’s and performed with everybody who is somebody in the world of jazz, from Herbie Hancock and Dizzy Gillespie, to Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea.
His reputation as one of the greatest living Cuban jazz pianists has earned him appearances on the greatest stages in music, including Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center and The Hollywood Bowl.
Tour Dates for new York
Oct. 20: Utica, N.Y., Stanley Theatre
Oct. 22 & 23: New York, N.Y., The Allen Room @ Jazz at Lincoln Center
Nov. 1: New York, N.Y., Village Vanguard