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Chucho Valdes: Briyumba Palo Congo

As Paquito D’Rivera says in the June 1999 issue of JazzTimes, Valdes has a very drum-oriented approach to the piano. A brilliant player, the Cuban keyboard man and co-founder of Irakere is joined on his third Blue Note album by bassist Francisco Rubio, drummer Raul Pineda and conga drummer Roberto Vizcaino Guillot. Through rhythmic superimposition, Valdes is able to make cogent transitions from calm, floating chordal passages to intense, driving, octave-voiced lines. Guillot is often a catalyst in this process.

On “Caravan” Valdes employs galloping Brubeck chords and a McCoy Tyner- and Oscar Peterson-like roar and kick. On “Embraceable You,” he leans more in a Bill Evans direction. He digs into Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” the other “standard” in this seven-song set, with swing, Latin rhythms, and harmonies that make this performance more than just a Latinized novelty. The pianist’s four originals offer further insights into why he is a welcome and exciting addition to the U.S. recording and touring scene.

Originally Published