Chucho Valdes - Jazz BataMalanga Records
Co-founding memeber of Cuban supergroup Irakere Chucho Valdes began his career as an aspiring Afro-Cuban jazz pianist and this excellent offering chronicles both one of his earliest albums as a leader in Cuba and a later offering from the early nineteen-eighties when his compositional talent and orchestral leadership was already well established. The earlier album dates from roughly 1972 and is an outstanding example of Afro-Cuban jazz with a modal influence in Valdes' playing inspired, perhaps, by McCoy Tyner. The percussive intro of 'Neurosis' leads on to freer improvisation mixed with blues inflections while 'Laureen' showcases the lyricism in his playing. However, the piece de resistance is unquestionably, 'Irakere' and possibly one of his finest compositions. In sum a highly accessible, yet challenging album in the same breath. The second album dates from a decade later and the Irakere group influence is far more discernible down to individual group members participating in the recording. Of particular interest is the inclusion of a song by nueva trova singer Sylvio Rodriguez 'Rabo de Nube' given the instrumental treatment and interestingly to be found on the latest Charles Lloyd album also. Here it is given a solo piano treatment plus flute accompaniment from German Velazco. One wonders whether Lloyd has been exposed to this recording. Devoted to his daughter, the ballad 'Claudia' is another excellent composition while the best solo is reserved for the piano vamp and ensuing excursion on 'Son para Leyanis'. With the current economic recession, it is heartening to know that independent labels are providing such excellent valuie for money. Extended bi-lingual notes from Cuban musicologist Maria elena Mendiola accompany the CD.
Tim Stenhouse, 05/08