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Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers: Border-Free

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Border-Free is a companion piece and a doubling-down on Chucho Valdés’ magnificent Chucho’s Steps album from 2010. Valdés has retained most of his Afro-Cuban Messengers (although the drummer and bassist are new, the percussionist, vocalist/bata player and trumpeter return), pays tribute once again to family members and key historical musicians and cultures, and reprises the previous album’s virtuosic hopping and condensing of genres.

But where Chucho’s Steps included a dedication to Chucho’s son, Julian, Border-Free includes tributes to his grandmother (“Caridad Amaro,” which concludes with an excerpt from a Rachmaninoff concerto she liked); his mother (“Pilar,” which interpolates compositions from Bach and Miles Davis that she favored); and his famous, recently departed father, Bebo Valdés (“Bebo,” which, despite the small ensemble, evokes Bebo’s Sabor de Cuba Orchestra from the ’50s).

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