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Mayra Caridad Valdes: La Diosa del Mar

Terrific as it is to see Mayra Caridad Valdes attract the broad critical attention she’s long deserved, it’s hard not to be amused by the frequency with which she’s described as a dynamic new force in world music. Dynamic? Unquestionably. New? Hardly.

Though La Diosa del Mar (translation: The Sea Goddess) is, indeed, the Cuban firecracker’s first solo album, she’s been singing professionally for at least half of her 46 years and boasts one of the most impressive pedigrees in Afro-Cuban jazz. She is the daughter of Bebo Valdes and the younger sister of Chucho Valdes, linking her directly to a multigenerational set of piano geniuses. Given the breadth of her experience and the depth of her musical blue-bloodedness, it is satisfying, though hardly surprising, to discover that La Diosa del Mar is such a soaring achievement. From the reverential authority of “Besame Mucho” to the escalating fever of her brother’s “Yemay ” and rhythmic majesty of the folklore anthem “Rezo Afrocubano,” the disc ably demonstrates that this particular acorn hasn’t fallen far from the mighty family tree.

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